LOUISVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The U.S. Department of Defense has recognized UT-Battelle, which manages and operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with the 2022 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

It’s an honor that’s only given out to 15 employers across the nation. ORNL was selected out of over 2700 applicants.

“It is an organization that exists to serve the nation,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said.

Those who have served are part of their mission. The Freedom Award recognizes employers for their support of employees who are reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Most of these men and women have dual roles, they are employed as well by private employers and it’s really important that those employers support them and their efforts to serve Tennesseans,” Gov. Bill Lee said. 

600 of ORNL’s 6,000 employees are military reservists and veterans.

“They are such a critical part of who we are as a laboratory and how we serve the nation.”

It’s an effort to make sure those who serve are supported in all areas of their lives, resulting in bettering the state as a whole.

“If we can paint a picture, hold up an example like UT-Battelle, like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, an example of one who is truly creating an environment of service to those who serve, then we expect we’ll have more employers that do that,” Lee said. “When we have more employers that are taking care of our men and women serving us, then we’re likely to have more of them willing to do the same.”

The Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. government to employers who support staff members of the U.S. Armed Forces.