A New Perspective on Military Job Protection

            I was down in Texas and Oklahoma last week. It’s a different country down there. People seem friendlier. They’re no nonsense, too. We have a different vibe up here in the Northeast; we’re all business up here. That’s my impression, anyway.
            But man, it is hot down there in North Texas and Oklahoma. Ninety-five degrees is a cold front this time of year.
            I was down there to see my son graduate from Army Basic Training at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. We were by no means a military family before, but we are now, like the flip of a switch.
            If you’ve never been to a boot camp graduation, it is a pretty cool ceremony to see. First of all, you see Americans from every background at an Army ceremony. You don’t just see soldiers, you see their families, too. You see grandparents and infants, toddlers and wives, husbands and cousins. Name a race or ethnicity, and you will see it at Army boot camp graduation.
            And what was really compelling is that nobody cared about skin color or background or where you were from or what you did for a living. We were all proud of our soldiers. And we all had skin in the game suddenly. It changed my perspective.
            I always had a detached admiration for the military. I never gave much thought to the sacrifices or pride of the families that the soldiers came from, but there it was last week on full display.
            My son is an Army soldier. Military folks are part of my family now.
            So I was happy when I got a phone call from a soon-to-be Marine after I returned from sweltering Oklahoma. The gentleman had gotten his orders to report to his Marine post in mid-September down in Virginia.
            His wife is three months pregnant with their first child, and he has a lot of work to do to get ready for the move down to Virginia. If you have ever been pregnant or gone through a pregnancy with a loved one, you know that the first three months can be a bit difficult. Planning a move, getting affairs in order, and getting physically and mentally fit for what awaits at training is a lot on any person’s plate.
            The new Marine was trying to coordinate with his current employer to help make the move easier. Under a federal law known as USERRA, employers are required to hold a job for a member of the military for up to five years while he or she serves. USERRA guarantees a job once military leave ends and the soldier, airman, sailor, or marine returns from duty.
            But the new Marine that I was assisting needed time off to get his affairs in order before heading off to his post. His employer was giving him a hard time about getting time off, and he was concerned that without adequate time, he would be unable to get to Virginia and be ready to go when he got there.
            He needed to know what he could do. It turns out that USERRA allows military members to take unpaid military leave from their current employment to prepare for an assignment. The amount of time off depends on the place of deployment, the length of deployment, and the time necessary to get affairs in order. After I spoke with the employer, we came to an agreement on time off. In a few weeks, we’ll have a new member of the Marine Corps ready to go. That’s something to be thankful for.

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