DOD Honors Outstanding Disabled Employees, Agency Components
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 7, 2011 The Defense Department honored 19 people and four organizations here yesterday at the 31st annual DOD Disability Awards ceremony.
“At DOD,” said Stephen King, the Pentagon’s director of disability programs and equal opportunity, “we know our strength is in the diversity of our people -- our service members and our civilians. And by investing in workers with disabilities, DOD reaps the benefits many times over.”
This investment helps to dispel myths and remove barriers that can hold back those with disabilities, he added.
John R. Campbell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy, echoed those sentiments to the honorees.
"That kind of adaptive empathy that comes from a military culture that values diversity is exactly what we need to cooperate with our partners and allies and defend freedom around the world," Campbell said. He recalled some noteworthy Americans who he said "demonstrated incredible resilience and compassion" despite their disabilities.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the country through "dark days not unlike today's" while he battled polio, a fact that was unknown to the American public for years, Campbell said. Today, he added, Roosevelt wouldn't have to hide his disability.
Army Gen. George Patton, best known for commanding troops during World War II, tried to overcome dyslexia his entire life, Campbell said. Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who has serious physical limitations and complete paralysis from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, "is one of greatest minds alive today and continues to contribute to our scientific understanding," he noted.
He also cited Helen Keller, who earned a bachelor's degree and became a world-renown writer and lecturer despite the fact she could neither hear nor see.
"Where would we be without these leaders?" Campbell asked the honorees and the audience at the ceremony.
The Defense Department has led efforts to improve prostheses and assistive technologies for its wounded warriors, Campbell said, and these developments also are in use in the private sector.
"These investments and advances help us create a level playing field for people with disabilities, and offer them greater opportunities to succeed," he added.
Campbell reminded the audience of President Barack Obama's call to the federal government to become a model employer of individuals with disabilities.
"This demonstrates from the highest level in our government that the future of our nation depends on a talented, resilient workforce made up of men and women both in and out of uniform. The DOD challenges all [government and private sector] leaders to set the level for attracting, retaining and empowering these men and women who have so much to offer."
The following DOD components were recognized for their outstanding achievements in employing individuals with disabilities:
-- Department of the Navy, best military department;
-- Defense Commissary Agency, best mid-sized component;
-- Joint Staff, best small component; and
-- Defense Intelligence Agency, best intelligence component.
Military and civilian honorees are:
-- Bobbie Mezei, Department of the Army;
-- Trent Moore, Department of the Army;
-- Nathanael Wales, Department of the Army;
-- Army Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan M. Grundy;
-- William G. Conley, Department of the Navy;
-- Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew R. Koetting;
-- Robert Rudney, Department of the Air Force;
-- Air Force Senior Airman Michael James Malarsie;
-- Air Force Tech. Sgt. Frank Reilly;
-- Thomas J. Dembowski, National Guard Bureau;
-- Army Maj. Leland D. Blanchard, National Guard Bureau;
-- Jamie L. Critchfield, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General;
-- Garth Erik Porter, Army and Air Force Exchange Service;
-- Catherine A. Richardson, Defense Contract Management Agency;
-- Terry Lysaght, Defense Finance and Accounting Service;
-- Pamela A. Circo Webb, Defense Logistics Agency;
-- Sean L. Cumming, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency;
-- Andrew McKay, National Security Agency; and
-- Mark B. Rew, TRICARE Management Activity.