PLEASANTON, Calif., June 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) has been selected to receive the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the nation's highest honor given to employers for exceptional support of National Guard and Reserve employees. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an office of the Department of Defense, announced the award recipients today. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130625/SF38175LOGO) Safeway is one of six large companies to be honored with the prestigious Freedom Award. Nine other award recipients are small- to mid-sized businesses or public-sector employers. The recipients, who were chosen from a pool of nearly 3,000 nominated private and public sector employers, were selected for their demonstrated programs, policies and achievements in support and hiring members of the National Guard and Reserve. "I commend and thank the 15 recipients of the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for providing exceptional support to our Citizen Warriors," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. "So many of our Nation's employers are finding ways to contribute to our Nation's security, but these employers stand out for their commitment to our Guardsmen and Reservists. They have the gratitude and thanks of the entire Department of Defense." "Providing employment opportunities and training to our men and women in uniform and veterans are among the most important public services we perform," said Safeway's President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert Edwards. "We are honored to be among a select group of private and public sector organizations who can now call themselves Freedom Award recipients." Safeway has a long history of commitment to men and women in the military. The company was among the first employers to commit (more than 10 years ago) to cover the pay differential and extend full benefits to employees in the Reserve and National Guard called to active duty. Safeway continues to provide this benefit. The company has aggressively responded to the need for employment with returning veterans through its Junior Military Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer (JMO/NCO) Program. In 2012, Safeway hired nearly 1,500 veterans with over 1,300 of them hired into the company's retail stores. Safeway has also committed to hiring at least another 1,500 veterans by the end of 2013. While the majority of Safeway's Store Managers and Assistant Managers are promoted from its internal ranks, the company's Human Resources team recognized the untapped talent pool in the military.