Know Your Military

DOD Recognizes Troops, Employees With Disabilities

Oct. 3, 2019 | BY David Vergun

People with disabilities are unemployed at twice the rate of the national average, even though many of them have the training, skills and experience the nation needs — particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.

Man speaks at lectern that bears the Defense Department emblem.
Esper Speech
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks at the 39th annual Secretary of Defense Disability Awards ceremony in the Pentagon, Oct. 3, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan Overbay
VIRIN: 191003-D-JH334-001

"We must do our part across the department to harness those talents and help bridge the employment gap," Esper said at the 39th Annual Secretary of Defense Disability Awards ceremony in the Pentagon today. "That means eliminating barriers to recruitment across the force. We must give everyone the opportunity to succeed and support them as they advance their careers."

The department must continue to recognize each worker's unique contributions and the leadership they provide so the armed forces can retain the nation's technological edge and military superiority, Esper said.

The diversity and talents across the department is what drives ingenuity."
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper

It's fitting that this year's theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month is "The Right Talent, Right Now," he said. That's because military personnel, including those who are disabled, all bring skills that are critical to accomplishing the mission exactly when they're needed, which is right now, he added.

"People are our most important resource," Esper said. "That remains as true as ever. The diversity and talents across the department is what drives ingenuity."

Group poses for award photo.
Disability Awards
The Defense Department recognizes service members at the 39th annual Secretary of Defense Disability Awards Ceremony in the Pentagon, Oct. 3, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay
VIRIN: 191003-D-JH334-0031

This year marks the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became a global standard for nondiscrimination and equal opportunity, the secretary noted. 

"Today, let's recommit to upholding that legacy," he said. "Let's shape our force to one that's united by something much stronger than our differences: that is our dedication and passion for the mission, regardless of background or disability."

Group poses for award photo.
Disability Awards
Veronika Benavidez, center, a human resources specialist with the Army’s Civilian Human Resources Agency, is recognized at the 39th annual Secretary of Defense Disability Awards Ceremony in the Pentagon, Oct. 3, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan Overbay
VIRIN: 191003-D-JH334-003
Group poses for award photo.
Award Recipient
Army Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hoxie, center, a geospatial intelligence imagery analyst at U.S. Army South Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is recognized at the 39th annual Secretary of Defense Disability Awards ceremony in the Pentagon, Oct. 3, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan Overbay
VIRIN: 191003-D-JH334-002

Esper mentioned the 23 military personnel being honored for their achievements. He said they all embody the spirit of service that defines the workforce. "The honorees are inspiring models of selfless service for all of us," he said.