With a unique blend of civilian and military expertise, L. Gordon Sumner, Jr., Ph.D. leads 4,200 volunteers who serve as a vital lifeline between the war on terror overseas and Americas’ employers and families, as they welcome back our National Guard & Reserves.
As Executive Director, National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (NCESGR), a Department of Defense Agency, Dr. Sumner advises the DOD on all matters involving employer support programs for all the Reserve components of the United States Armed Forces who are forced to leave civilian life to serve during these times of war.
President Bush, who appointed Dr. Sumner on March 29, also hailed the ESGR mission, by proclaiming this week – which includes the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America – National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week, 2007.
“Employers across America demonstrate their patriotism by providing time off, pay, healthcare benefits, and job security to their Guard and Reserve employees, helping them prepare for their return to families and to civilian life,” Bush said. “The commitment of our Nation's employers is a vital and integral part of the success of our Armed Forces.
It’s a message that rings true with Bush’s man in charge of returning that commitment back from our nation’s employers.
“We must focus our efforts in ensuring that every deployed service member never has to look back with an ounce of concern about their job,” Sumner says in an exclusive interview with Veterans Advantage. “To allow anyone to be looking backwards instead of on the mission means we have failed that individual. This is unacceptable as it puts that individual and their unit’s mission in jeopardy.”
As Sumner sees it, there are vast differences between military and civilian service, that put huge strains on the families of America: “Military work tends to have people focused on accomplishing the mission regardless of how long it takes, so there is a 24/7 [always on-duty] condition to the job.”
“Citizens need the total awareness of the responsibilities that are placed on the [Reserve] members and their families,” he adds. ““What you see today is what you’re going to see in the near future.”
Military Decorations and Experience
Commissioned as a Reserve Officer, Dr. Sumner had a successful military career serving in a variety of Infantry, Air Defense, and Aviation command and staff positions worldwide. A decorated combat veteran, Airborne, Ranger, and Master Army Aviator, Sumner has two Purple Hearts which remind him of his life’s most defining moment: Being in charge of 400 people as a troop commander in a combat zone. “When you’re responsible for their daily lives, it’ll teach you to grow up real quick.”
Military awards and decorations also include the Legion of Merit (OLC), Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3OLC), Air Medal, and various other US and foreign awards. He is also the only American to have commanded a British Army attack helicopter unit.
Hopes and Dreams
A Renaissance Man knighted by the Queen of England, Dr. Sumner is a pianist and a holder of a Doctorate Degree in Philosophy from Madison University, as well as an MBA and Masters of Education from Auburn and Boston Universities. He cites as his three biggest influences on his life his childhood piano teacher (his greatest influence in music), his grandmother (“how to treat people and be a leader”) and all the NCOs he’s worked with (“I wouldn’t have been the officer I turned out to be without the NCOs.”)
It’s this well-roundedness which seems to drive his life’s dream: That there are one day “certain jobs we didn’t have to do.”
“It seems like an old cliché, but it would be nice if people were able to get along worldwide so we wouldn’t have to rely so much on the military to keep the peace.”
But until then, our nation can count on HeroVet Gordon Sumner to help us to a brighter future.
Image Credit: http://www.c47club.org/c47club/board-of-directors/