Deployed in Iraq, Medtronic Employee Writes Special Message Home
On a sweltering night in the Iraqi desert, from a combat zone location he’s not allowed to divulge or describe, Captain Ruben Hidalgo wrote a long email home. Not to his sister this time. Or his mother. This time he wrote to the United States Department of Defense (D.O.D.).
“I wanted to say thank you to Medtronic and to all of my co-workers for everything they do to support me,” Hidalgo said, speaking on a scratchy, 1:00 a.m. Zoom call from Iraq. “And I wanted to do it in the most impactful way possible.”
Hidalgo’s Medtronic co-workers know him as a senior financial analyst at the Mounds View campus in Minneapolis. But his military colleagues know him as Captain Hidalgo, a Military Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, currently on a nine-month deployment in Iraq. Hidalgo, and three other fellow veterans, nominated Medtronic for the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the U.S. government’s highest recognition for employers supporting their Guard and Reserve employees. The D.O.D. today honored Medtronic and 14 other companies with the 2021 Freedom Award.
“Supporting veterans comes with a burden,” Hidalgo said. “Managers lose a valuable team member for extended periods during deployments. Co-workers have to pick up the extra work. I wrote the nomination for everyone within Medtronic who supports me and so many other veterans.”
“We consider hiring and supporting veterans a significant priority at Medtronic and we’re honored to receive the Freedom Award,” said Patrick Joyce, Vice President of Global IT and Chief Security Officer at Medtronic. Joyce is also a veteran; having served as an Intelligence Officer in the United States Air Force (USAF). “Veterans bring intangible skills to the workplace after their service in the military. Things like leadership, mission focus, communication and the ability to work under pressure and in complex organizations. Among many other things,” he said.
Joyce and Hidalgo are among more than 1,200 military veterans now working at Medtronic in the U.S. alone. Medtronic has a long history of supporting veteran employees. Co-founder Earl Bakken served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. Today, Medtronic actively recruits veterans for a wide variety of job openings. The company provides paid time off for veterans to fulfill their military reserve obligations. If reservists get deployed, Medtronic holds their jobs and continues to pay their salaries and benefits. Vacation time accrues as if the reservists are actively on the job, and Medtronic vigorously supports its Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG). The State of Minnesota recognized Medtronic as a “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” company in 2019. The Freedom Award is the latest, and most prestigious recognition of the company’s support for veterans.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to these exemplary employers, who by valuing and supporting their employees’ military service, enhance the strength, readiness, and diversity of our National Guard and Reserve forces,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, in announcing the Freedom Award recipients.
“Beyond the policies is a culture of support and respect for the Armed Services demonstrated by the people I work with on a regular basis,” Hidalgo wrote in his nomination. “My peers, co-workers, and leaders have always demonstrated a sense of pride to have me on their team which has allowed me to never feel guilty if my military obligation took me away from work. This only happens when an organization has a deep-rooted culture of support and understanding,” he wrote.
Hidalgo and his military teammates work 12-15-hour days, seven days a week in Iraq. “One of the worst things is that the days kind of run together,” he said. “I know the day of the week by what’s on the menu. Thursday is Quesadilla Night,” he laughed. “The days are long. The weeks are short, and the months are an eternity.”
He can’t discuss his missions; his work in Iraq is classified. His deployment started in September of 2020 and he expects to be back in the United States sometime this summer. Hidalgo says he sees similarities between the values of service in the military and the values of the Medtronic Mission. “We’re trying to make the world a slightly safer place than when we arrived (in Iraq),” he said. “At Medtronic, we’re trying to make the world a healthier place. I’m proud to work for an organization that doesn’t make me feel as though I have to choose one career over the other.”