WASHINGTON (NNS) — Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and various Department of Defense (DoD) agencies joined The Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at the Pentagon's auditorium today to award the DoD's 36th Annual Disability Awards.
"As National Disability Employment Awareness Month begins, we're reminded of our commitment to live the values we defend — to make the Department of Defense more open and accessible to all who can make a contribution to our mission," said Carter. "So I encourage all DoD components and military departments to renew their commitment to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities."
Eighteen individuals were recognized, including three members of the Department of the Navy team. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, the honorable Franklin R. Parker, recognized Marine Staff Sgt. Adam Leblanc, Ms. Christina Pate and Mr. Alec Forsman.
"I was totally shocked, honor and surprised by this award," said Christina Pate, an acquisitions lead with the Naval Systems Warfare Center. "To be recognized amongst peers outside of my command is priceless."
Pate has been a civil servant for more than 33 years and is currently serves as the Equal Employment Opportunity diversity council hair in Panama City, Florida.
"The dedication, perseverance, and breath of accomplishments these men and women represent are tremendous," said Parker. "Their service and sacrifice is an inspiration for all, and a genuine example of the triumph of the human spirit. I am honored to be able to recognize these extraordinary individuals on behalf of our Department."
Kirk Bauer, the executive directive of Disabled Sports USA, was the ceremony's key speaker. A combat-wounded veteran from the Vietnam War, he was twice awarded the Bronze Star for heroism. He is also the recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained in combat, including the amputation of his left leg above the knee.
As part of its annual observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which dates back to 1981, the DoD has recognized outstanding service members and civilian employees with disabilities who demonstrate the core values of their respective services, and who contribute to the DoD mission.