The State of Hawaii received the Freedom Award, the highest recognition given by the U.S. government to employers for the support of their National Guard and Reserve employees.
Gov. Linda Lingle accepted the award at a ceremony Thursday in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.
"We are proud of our members of the Hawaii National Guard and Reserves, and we have instituted a number of programs and tax breaks as a way of thanking our men and women in uniform for their service," Lingle said.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense agency, honored 15 employers from across the nation with the award.
The 2010 recipients include seven large American corporations, four small businesses and four public-sector organizations.
The Irvine, Calif., Police Department, Michigan State Police and East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., also received public-sector awards. Hawaii is the seventh state to receive the award, which is in its 15th year.
In addition to Lingle, attending the award ceremony were U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, both Hawaii Democrats; U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, a Republican from Hawaii; state adjutant Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee; and state Rep. K. Mark Takai, who nominated the state for the award.
President Obama proclaimed Sept. 19-25 as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week.
Hirono said on the House floor on Wednesday that the State of Hawaii provides credit toward retirement for the time its Guard and Reserve employees are activated, and offers preferential hiring for those who have deployed.
"Notably, Hawaii is the only state to recognize its fallen war heroes by awarding them the state Medal of Honor," Hirono said.
Takai is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard. He was base operations officer at Camp Patriot, Kuwait, from February to August 2009 during the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s deployment to Kuwait and Iraq.
"The State of Hawaii has a very strong and unique partnership with our U.S. military," Takai said. "Our support for our troops also extends to the service members who work for the state and are in the National Guard or military Reserves."