NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For those who like to feel protected and to sleep well at night, be assured, the family of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve and Manpower Affairs, Juan Garcia III are on the job.
His father was an attack plane pilot, strapping on an A-7 "Corsair" II and then taking off for heavily defended enemy airspace during the Vietnam War, compiling 400 carrier landings over the course of his career. Secretary Garcia served aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf. His younger brother Mike is a patrol pilot, en route to his next assignment aboard the USS Carl Vinson.
For those who think "Top Gun" and the exploits of Tom Cruise as Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell when reading about Navy pilots, Secretary Garcia's father's bandit handle was "Greaser." Mike goes by "Weekend." (Showing the love, my cousin, a former Stealth pilot, flew the F-117A as "Jake the Snake.")
In a Memorial Day weekend exclusive for TheStreet, Secretary Garcia was interviewed in his office in the E-Ring of the Pentagon about the changes under way in the United States Armed Forces and the role of the reservist in American society.
With a background in corporate law, Secretary Garcia knows very well the support from civilian employers that is needed for a robust military, especially for the reserve programs which take workers away from their jobs for extended periods. "What many people don't realize," Garcia stressed, "is that over the course of the last 14 years, companies like General Electric (GE - Get Report), Sears (SHLD - Get Report), Verizon (VZ), CSX (CSX) and Walmart (WMT) have not only held positions for their mobilized reservists, many have made up the pay differential when they were on active duty, a true form of patriotism well beyond the legal requirement, or 'call of duty'."
At present, one in every five employees for CSX served in the military. Verizon ranks as the third most military friendly employee. General Electric has a high percentage of veterans in its workforce, too. Sears is nearly doubling the number of veterans it hires this year from 3500 in 2012. Through its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, Walmart will hire any qualified veteran who has been honorably discharged within the past year.
It is not only corporate America that is doing its part; the Ivy League has opened up to the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for the first time in 40 years, since Vietnam War protests resulted in their closure.
"Naval ROTC is back in the Ivy League," proclaimed Garcia, who, like his wife, is a classmate of President Obama's from Harvard Law School. Also holding an Master's Degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Garcia attributes much of the return of Navy ROTC to Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University. "She has a background in military history as a Civil War scholar and has been wonderful to work with," Garcia remarked. "We place a great value in having Ivy League graduates in the officer corps, as we want every willing and qualified American to share in both the burden and the honor of defending her."
As proof of the acceptance on Ivy League campuses, Secretary Garcia proudly pointed out that a Navy ROTC midshipman was just elected as president of the student body at Yale University.
When asked the most notable accomplishments during his tenure in office which started back in 2009, without hesitation he responded the Bin Laden Raid which featured the legendary Seal Team Six of the United States Navy. Next were the great advances made in combat medical care, with many reservist medical professionals playing a critical role. "It used to be 'The Golden Hour' in military medicine when you wanted to get to the wounded. Now it is 'The Platinum 15 Minutes'," he explained.