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Arizona veterans honor state ESGR chairman

Scott Essex, chairman of the Arizona Office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, accepts the 2011 Copper Sword Award from the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society Feb. 11 in Mesa, Ariz. The Copper Sword, presented to deserving civilian volunteers, represents the first metal swords ever made and symbolizes leadership and the determination to defend a greater cause. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ed Balaban)

Scott Essex, chairman of the Arizona Office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, accepts the 2011 Copper Sword Award from the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society Feb. 11 in Mesa, Ariz. The Copper Sword, presented to deserving civilian volunteers, represents the first metal swords ever made and symbolizes leadership and the determination to defend a greater cause. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ed Balaban)

MESA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society bestowed its most prestigious civilian volunteer award on the state's Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve chairman Feb. 11.

Mr. Scott Essex, in his 18th year as a member of Arizona's ESGR and fifth year as its chairman, accepted the Copper Sword Award for 2011 at a banquet held at the Dobson Ranch Inn here. The award is presented annually to a civilian with ties to Arizona who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help further the initiatives of veterans, patriotism and humanitarianism. He is the fifth person to receive the honor.

Essex, a program support manager for Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, volunteered 2,000 hours over the last five years alone to advance the cause of ESGR, a Department of Defense agency established to develop and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve service.

He and a state-wide network of ESGR volunteers recognize outstanding employer support through award programs, increase awareness of applicable employment laws, and resolve conflicts between servicemembers and their civilian employers. ESGR's stated mission is to "encourage employment of Guardsmen and Reservists who bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce."

"My viewpoint is that I can never give enough time, enough energy, enough of anything back to the military for all the things they do," said Essex. "They're out there on the line no matter what - day in, day out - and when push comes to shove they're going to be there for us. I just want to be there to try to help them and their families any way I can."

For Essex, "being there" is more of a full-time passion than a part-time hobby. His days are an endless string of unit deployments, re-deployments, Yellow Ribbon events, employer award ceremonies, meetings, conferences and countless other commitments he seems to gladly accept.

"So many things in life are not planed," he explained. "I was never in the military, but my relation to it as a volunteer has seemed to evolve."

As an avid writer, Essex cited the words of American author Richard Zacks, who in his novel The Pirate Hunter wrote, "Sometimes a man's fate depends not on his courage or character, but simply on what street corner he turns at what exact moment."

"That really was me from my standpoint with the military," said Essex. "Belonging to one civic group got me involved with others and everything grew from that. My obsession with trying to help the military and my passion for it has grown over the years."

His service began in 1992 when he joined the Tempe Military Affairs Committee. In 1993 he came to ESGR. Later, in 2003, he became a member of the Phoenix Air National Guard Patriots, the community support group for the 161st Air Refueling Wing. And in 2007 he joined the Arizona Joint Force Headquarters Diversity Committee.

"Each day is divided between all of those," said Essex who holds, or once held, a board member position in virtually all of the organizations.

Retired Col. Charles Schulter, president of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society, summarized Mr. Essex' dedication calling him "a genuine patriot, one who generously gives of himself for the betterment of others... He practices what he preaches and has answered his unique call to duty - and by so doing, he has demonstrated that he will go above and well beyond any call to complete any mission."

Humbly, Essex deflected the credit to his fellow volunteers and the servicemembers he's worked with over many years.

"When you enjoy the people that you are working with and for, it's all that more rewarding," said Essex. "To the men and women in uniform - thank you, thank you, thank you."