Four Medtronic employees received a hero’s welcome home as Medtronic accepted a prestigious national award for supporting its military veteran employees and their families
Four Medtronic employees received a hero’s welcome home as Medtronic accepted a prestigious national award for supporting its military veteran employees and their families.
Ruben Hidalgo, Rahsean Ellis and Joseph Lontai all serve in the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard. Missy Olson is the spouse of an Army reservist who recently returned from duty. Together, they nominated Medtronic for the 2021 Freedom Award, the highest honor a U.S. company can receive for supporting employees currently serving in the National Guard and reserves. Pentagon officials came to Minnesota to present Medtronic with the award on September 24. Lontai spoke for his fellow nominators during the ceremony.
“The ability to serve our country and be part of the Guard and Reserves while still working at our jobs, is a reflex to the leaders of Medtronic, not a special request,” he said. “It’s a mutually beneficial handshake.”
The Pentagon received 3,382 nominations for the 2021 Freedom Award; only Medtronic and 14 other U.S. companies received the honor.
“I’m truly honored and humbled to accept this award on behalf of Medtronic,” said Medtronic Chairman and CEO Geoff Martha. “Supporting veterans is not just the right thing to do, it also makes our company better. Our veterans bring an invaluable diversity of background, experience and problem-solving to Medtronic.”
“Your impact cannot be overstated,” said Brig. Gen. Maria A. Juarez, Deputy Commanding General-Support, 88th Readiness Division. “By allowing our soldiers the freedom to work on Missions critical to our national defense, Medtronic not only supports our national security, but receives in return employees with critical skill sets who will have positive impacts on your organization.”
Hidalgo compiled input from his fellow employee/veterans and submitted the award nomination while serving in Iraq. “My peers, co-workers, and leaders have always demonstrated a sense of pride to have me on their team which has allowed me to never feel guilty if my military obligation took me away from work,” Hidalgo wrote in the nomination. “This only happens when an organization has a deep-rooted culture of support and understanding.”
Her fellow Pentagon officials were “blown away” by the nomination, said Lieutenant Colonel Lekesha Hance, Private Public Partnership Office (P3O) Strategic Planner, PAO Office of the Chief, Army Reserve (OCAR). “We could tell that this is an employer that truly gets it, that understands supporting service members and supporting the nation is critical to national security. We were truly impressed.”
Medtronic support for veterans goes back to the very beginning of the company. Co-founder Earl Bakken served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. Today, more than 1,200 military veterans currently work at Medtronic in the U.S. alone. The company actively recruits veterans and provides paid time off for them to fulfill their military reserve obligations. If reservists get deployed, Medtronic holds their jobs for up to five years and continues to pay their salaries and benefits.
In their civilian lives, Hidalgo is a senior financial analyst; Olson a clinical research monitor; Ellis a clinical specialist in cardiac ablation, and Lontai is a sales manager. All are now back on the job at Medtronic. “The support veterans receive at this company comes from the top down,” Lontai said. “We certainly can’t do any of this alone. We’re all very grateful.”