Showing up for veterans and active service members is just the ticket for Sanford Health and its leaders.
With the Air Force and University of South Dakota men squaring off on the basketball court at the Sanford Pentagon on Veterans Day, it’s a chance to announce gratitude for all who have served.
“I’m so grateful that, on Veterans Day, we have an opportunity to have two incredible organizations (Air Force and USD) with these young student athletes who are coming there. It’s really about more than a basketball game,” said Bill Gassen, Sanford Health President and CEO.
‘We look for veterans in the hiring process’
Air Force Academy graduate and Sanford Health employee Jonathan Sireci is getting the chance to deliver the game ball.
“Especially with all the things that Sanford does for veterans, it’s great to be able to be here and represent both organizations,” said Sireci, director of human resources innovations and technologies.
Tipping off the game with his wife and two kids, Sireci says the organization’s respect for the United States Armed Forces is no fake.
“We look for veterans in the hiring process. I work in HR. I can tell you firsthand. I know how it works behind the scenes,” Sireci said.
Transitioning military members to the team is one thing. Caring for their health is another.
“The manner in which we care for patients that come to us, that have served before, and the way in which we partner in our communities is really unique and something that I think is quite special,” said Nathan Peterson, Sanford Health executive vice president and chief strategy and development officer.
‘Just incredible pride’
Peterson is a veteran. Retired after two decades in the South Dakota Air National Guard, he now serves on Sanford Health’s corporate leadership team.
Despite a bachelor’s and master’s degree from USD, his allegiance lies with the Falcons.
“I spent 21 years in the Air Guard, so I have to go with the Air Force,” Peterson said.
Providing balance, Gassen, a former USD football player, is cheering on the Yotes.
However, growing up on Air Force bases with his father in the military, he shares a special connection with the branch.
“Seeing my father come home each and every day, working swing shifts in the evening and being deployed. He served over in Desert Storm for a year. Just incredible pride,” Gassen said about his dad’s service.
Sanford Health recognized for military support
Cory Diedrich, who also works at Sanford, is sporting Air Force blue in the stands for a special reason.
“My son is Cadet Second Class Aiden Diedrich at the United States Air Force Academy,” Diedrich said.
Having a child raise his hand brings him even more appreciation for how Sanford Health operates.
The organization was just recognized by the Military Times’ “Best for Vets Employers List” and named a Military Friendly Employer for the third year in a row.
“That’s incredible to me,” Diedrich said. “To be in that group is outstanding.”
Hiring and overseeing veterans himself, the supply chain operations director says vets enrich the culture.
“(They’re) dedicated to just being really good at what they do across the board. You see that difference in those individuals,” Diedrich said.
Military members learn discipline, teamwork
Air Force basketball coach Joe Scott says military members receive world-class training.
“We try to teach all those things by using that orange ball,” Scott said. “Whether it’s the discipline, whether it’s the teamwork, whether that’s embracing your role, bringing value to the group. That’s all the things the military teaches you and all the things the academy teaches.”
Putting others before yourself is another tenet.
“Serving, giving back, being part of a community and knowing that life is about, really, everybody else,” Scott said.
Those are all core values filling buckets that align with Sanford Health’s mission.
“Veterans Day is extra special but it’s true 365 days a year. The most important thing we can say to people who have served the country, made that sacrifice, is thank you,” Peterson said.
“Although we celebrate that on Veterans Day, we say here at this organization, every single day is a day in which we should be honoring and paying respect for our veterans,” Gassen said. “At the same time, every single day at Sanford Health is a day that we want to honor and pay respect to our caregivers, who like our veterans, and some of them fit into both categories, have given their lives for service to others and we are the beneficiaries of that.”
Even though this specific Veterans Day game had a winner, USD, no one loses when honoring veterans.
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