COLUMBIA — Gov. Jay Nixon visited IBM's technology service delivery center on Friday morning to present the company with an award recognizing its hiring of veterans as part of his Show-Me Heroes program.
Show-Me Heroes connects military veterans with job opportunities upon their return. It also showcases businesses that are hiring veterans, such as IBM.
"I think we have a significant responsibility to the transition into civilian life," Nixon said. "And the best way to do that is this (program)."
Nixon said veterans represent 12.5 percent of the employees at the Columbia IBM location, which is on Lemone Industrial Boulevard.
He presented IBM with the Flag of Freedom award, which is given to companies that participate in Show-Me Heroes and hire veterans.
The Flag of Freedom award "is a unique award; it's not as big as some," Nixon said. "But I think it's incredibly meaningful."
The award is a plaque that features a subdued American flag patch, the gray flag that is worn by military members in combat. Each patch was worn by a combat member of the Missouri National Guard while he or she was deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to a news release from the governor's office.
IBM's award features the patch worn by Sgt. Keith D. Miller, who served in the 2nd Platoon, 1139th Military Police Company, in Iraq in August 2010.
Nixon established the Show-Me Heroes program in January 2010, inspired by a conversation he had with a soldier serving in Afghanistan. Nixon had asked the soldier what scared him.
"I remember, he raised his night vision goggles and he said to me, 'You know, Gov, what scares me is not having a job when I get home; that's what scares me,'" Nixon said. "That was the beginning of our Show-Me Heroes program."
Employers participating in Show-Me Heroes sign a pledge to increase efforts to recruit and interview veterans for job openings, according to the release. To date, 3,463 businesses have taken the pledge, and more than 5,000 veterans have been hired.
"With the great employers we've got in the state of Missouri," Nixon said, "Missouri can be a place where veterans, after they complete their service, are thanked not only for that service but in a much more important way are integrated back into the community."
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