Idaho’s ESGR chair volunteers over 20 years

ESGR Cindy Reese

Before Cindy Reese joined the Employer Support of the Guard nearly 21 years ago, she participated in her first-ever employer outreach function, called a Bosslift, where she flew in a C130 to Fort Knox, Kentucky and visited with Soldiers.

She spent several days getting to know the Soldiers while living like one herself exploring tanks, eating in military dining facilities and shooting M16 rifles before returning to Idaho.

“After the other participants and I got off the plane and onto a bus, our event director asked us who had fun and was ready to go home,” said Reese. “Of course we all raised our hands. Then he asked us to take a moment and think of all those who didn’t get to come home from a deployment. There was not a dry eye on the bus. That’s when I decided I wanted to help make a difference and be part of something bigger than myself by joining the ESGR.”

Reese, who also works full time as a service manager for Tadd Jenkins Auto Group in Blackfoot, Idaho has since volunteered with the ESGR, helping to develop the program and relationships between Idaho National Guardsmen and their civilian employers.

She has held various positions including vice chair of the National Volunteer Support Subcommittee, which assists in the management, improvement and execution of ESGR volunteers, information technology and training programs.

Currently, she is serving her fifth year as the ESGR state chair of Idaho and in October, Reese was selected to serve as the National Volunteer Support Subcommittee chair.

For her service with the ESGR, Reese has received numerous awards including the Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher, the Seven Seals Award and the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

“ESGR is very near and dear to my heart,” said Reese. “The things our committee and I have been able to accomplish is because we have a great team, an incredible relationship with the military and we all have a true desire to be part of something more than ourselves. Many of our volunteers, like myself, did not serve in the military and this is our way to give back.”

About ESGR
ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 that promotes cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers through outreach, recognition and educational opportunities.

The program operates through a network of more than 3,000 volunteers across 54 committees located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Idaho’s ESGR Committee consists of more than 60 volunteers.

The Idaho National Guard helps to support ESGR and committee goals by promoting local employer outreach events such as Bosslift to build awareness of military missions while also recognizing civilian employers for their contributions and support to mission readiness.

Reese has contributed to more than two dozen state-wide and regional Bosslift events, in addition to other leadership and employer outreach events for organizations across the state, including chamber of commerce briefings.

Additionally, Reese has assisted the committee in recognizing hundreds of civilian employers throughout the state with various awards including the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the Pro-Patria Award and the Above and Beyond Award.

“The support of our civilian employers is critical,” said Reese. “It’s been a real highlight of my career being able to recognize employers within our communities for that support by presenting them awards to let know how important they are to the success of our Guardsmen.”

In Feb. 2020, Idaho’s Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, presented Reese and the Idaho ESGR committee, with their own guidon, recognizing the volunteers for their valuable contributions to the Idaho National Guard.

“Receiving the guidon meant a lot to us in the ESGR because it told us how important we are to the Idaho National Guard,” said Reese. “The ESGR would not be as successful as it is, if it were not for continued support of the Idaho Military Division leadership and the ESGR’s dedicated staff.”

“It’s always been about the people”

Reese had the opportunity to meet thousands of Guardsmen over the years, many who she now considers family. Much of the opportunities were life changing and strengthened her passion and commitment for volunteering, she said.

“They are the reason I volunteer,” said Reese. “It’s always been about the people. They are what keeps me going because I get to help make a difference in their lives and their families.”

In 2004, Reese visited Louisiana where thousands of Idaho Army National Guardsmen were conducting premobilization training prior to deploying. She served them Thanksgiving dinner and later shook their hands before they boarded a plane to Iraq.

“As I stood on the tarmac and shook hands with every single one of the thousands of Soldiers leaving, I remember seeing men and women, both young and old, with their backpacks and weapons,” said Reese. “Some had teddy bears and dolls given to them by loved ones. Some had tears in their eyes wondering if it was the last time they would see their families.”

Despite what those Soldiers left behind or sacrificed to deploy, Reese said their level of commitment to serve and do what they signed up for impressed her more than anything she had seen before. It was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that changed her, she added.

“The attitude and level of commitment those Soldiers portrayed that day changed the way I felt about the things I did in my own life,” said Reese. “It made me want to be more committed, dedicated and stand taller for the things I knew were right.”

In July 2019, Reese volunteered as chair of a committee that helped bring a replica of Washington D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to Blackfoot, Idaho. After the project completed two years later, “The Wall That Heals” opened for viewing during a ceremony in September 2021, where thousands of visitors attended.