Washington Mall Hosts Annual Salute to Public Servants
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2004 Federal, state and local government employees including military members at home and overseas are selflessly performing vital and important work for a better tomorrow, a senior U.S. official said here today.
Kicking off this year's Public Service Recognition Week exposition held May 6-9 on the National Mall, Eduardo Aguirre Jr., director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, noted that public employees are committed to selflessly "serve and uphold a greater cause" than themselves.
Navy divers Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Bledsoe, left, and
Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Blanchard say "hi" from their submerged world in a
water tank May 6 at the Public Service Recognition Week exposition on the
National Mall in Washington. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Public service, Aguirre observed, "gives our nation hope and optimism about building a better, safer, fairer and more just society."
And Aguirre specifically cited U.S. service members "for serving heroically to protect our freedoms here and overseas."
Respect for all public employees, "especially those who wear military uniforms, must be a basic value of our community," Aguirre noted.
Public service, he said, "is a high calling and I salute those who have responded."
Myriad displays were on hand for public perusal at the mall event, including military high-tech gizmos, weaponry, helicopters, divers and more.
For example, "Matilda" is a remote-controlled robot system used successfully in explosives disposal and cave and urban reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, noted Army Sgt. Jerry Freeman, 28, a combat engineer from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Freeman observed that camera-equipped Matildas used overseas have saved soldiers' lives.
Army Sgt. Ryan Pavilanis, a Ranger with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga., has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now stateside, he was showing mall visitors some Ranger exotic weaponry, like the .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle.
A four-year Army veteran, Pavilanis said he believes the public is supporting the U.S. military's overseas efforts, noting, "They treat us with respect."
The 22-year-old infantryman said it's important to find and stop terrorists overseas before they can mount another 9/11-type attack on the U.S. homeland. "It's very important that we stop them over there," he emphasized.
Korean War veteran Jesus Garcia, 72, and his wife, Judy, 64, quizzed Army Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Briggs near the OH-58D Kiowa reconnaissance helicopter exhibit. Briggs, a Kiowa pilot, noted that the diminutive aircraft which can carry Hellfire missiles -- has proven its worth in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Garcia, a former infantryman, said he had fought in Korea in 1951. He praised U.S. service members' efforts in today's global war on terror, adding his wish "that they all come back in one piece like I did."
Venues like Public Service Recognition Week, Briggs noted, can improve public- military relations. For example, he described some civilians' reactions after he answered their questions about military hardware.
"Their eyes open up and they're like, 'Oh, my gosh. I can't believe the technology that we have,'" Briggs said.
Public Service Recognition Week, celebrated the first Monday through Sunday in May since 1985, honors the men and women who serve the United States as federal, state and local government employees.