Veterans Day

The Story of a Veteran

By John E. Reeder

I remember my first Veterans Day after I began working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  At first I didn’t realize we had the day off.  I’d been assigned to work with a more senior staff member, a Vietnam vet, who said “of course” Veterans Day is a federal holiday, “to honor our vets…to honor you!”

I joined the U.S. Army right out of high school, in part to help me pay for college, in part to see the world, and in part because I had a bug about public service.  Then, I spent a good part of my college and graduate school years downplaying my military service. Not that I was embarrassed, but it always seemed to need an explanation and I just wanted to blend into the college scene.  I joined the army in 1979, at a time when the military was having trouble recruiting anyone with a high school degree.  So, I often got a quizzical look when people learned I had enlisted in the army, followed by, “what’d you do that for?”  By the time I finished college and grad school, my service seemed like a story from someone else’s life.

For many men and women, military service is a life-shaping experience. It certainly was for me. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and had never been to a military installation. I knew my great grandfather served in the Civil War, and then homesteaded our family’s farm in Minnesota.  However, our family didn’t have a military tradition. So, when I turned 17 and told my parents I was joining the army, it was the first time I saw my father cry.  It was all very foreign to them. We were baling hay one day, and the next I was shipped off to Alabama for basic training (my first time on an airplane!).

I know my parents worried every step of the way, , but my military service wasn’t any real hardship or dangerous. I spent 2000 hours in a guard tower during my 20 months in Germany, and on my days off I got to go sightseeing throughout Germany and parts of France. I made amazing friends, bonded by the shared experience of shipping off to basic training and having no idea where we’d end up.  We were all making a move of some sort, away from or toward something.  While intersecting for a brief point in our lives, we did our jobs and made memories that lasted forever. I think it’s that way for a lot of young men and women in the military.

Everyone who has served in the military has given something of themselves. They gave their time, they trained and prepared for potentially risky assignments. They went to forward locations, or they went into battle.  Or, maybe they sat in guard towers in Germany.  But, they all stepped out of the life they had, and gave themselves to the larger endeavor of protecting America.

There have been millions of service men and women before me, and after me.  Many have seen the horrors of war, and suffered physical or psychological damage. There are no words to thank them enough.  Many have done their time and left, like I did.  Some stayed for full careers.

What we know for sure is that every day and through the night, around the globe, there have been and will be American service men and women on duty monitoring radar, patrolling perimeters, assessing threats, and deterring our enemies. They are standing ready to put their life on the line so we can expect to wake up each morning, take our kids to school, and go to work.  We expect that our businesses can do business, our schools can teach, our utilities can deliver services, and we can fly or ride wherever we want any day. It’s hard to even imagine war on our soil, and that is truly the most amazing gift from many, many generations of American veterans.

Thank you veterans.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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White House Champions of Change- Veterans Advancing Clean Energy & Climate Security

By Tania Allen

This was my first time attending an event remotely close to the White House, and the fact that it was to recognize work being done by veterans was even more special for me. I was excited!

Entering the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House for the “Veterans Advancing Clean Energy & Climate Security” within a few days from Veterans Day was an honor. It was a reminder of the purpose for the work I do every day, helping veterans to transition from military service into federal employment. A reminder that the experience gained during active duty is easily translatable into the civilian word and that there is lots to be gained.

The honorees included 12 veterans from different branches of the military making a difference in the areas of clean energy and climate security for future generations. The common theme had to do with decreasing our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

 One of the honorees, Captain Adam Cote, was actually calling in to the meeting from Afghanistan. The focus of his company was thermal energy and energy storage technology. This expertise is sure to impact our future generations.

The other honorees included Dave Belote, Robin Eckstein, Philip Green, Avi Jacobson, Kevin Johnson, Joseph Knott, Joseph Kopser, Nat Kreamer, Andrea Marr, Elizabeth Perez-Halperin and Drew Sloan.

The work being done by those within our Agency mirrors the commitments of these honorees. Our commitment to protecting the environment is the mission of our agency and we are fulfilling this mission by increasing our veteran hiring over the years. We have doubled our veteran hiring over the past six years and we continue to improve because we understand the value that our veterans bring to the civilian workforce.

As the honorees proved all a veteran needs is an opportunity. I believe President Barack Obama said it best, “If you can lead a platoon in a war zone, you can lead a team in the board room.”
For more information on the EPA’s Veterans Employment Program, please click HERE.

About the author: Tania Allen serves as the Veterans Employment Program Manager in the Office of Human Resources and Human Capital Management Division for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Honoring Our Veterans

On this Veterans Day, I want to express a deep gratitude to all of the many men and women, past and present, who have proudly defended this nation through their military service. I feel especially privileged to have met many of these fine public servants and veterans who currently work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

At the EPA, we have worked very hard to expand our hiring of veterans over the past six years.  In fact, we have doubled the number of veterans hired during that time. From September 2012 to September 2013, more than 15% of our new hires were veterans, of which more than 5% were disabled veterans. Agency-wide, almost 9% of our permanent employees are vets. We have been able to accomplish this by expanding our participation in job fairs, career information events and outreach at military bases.

Our experience tells us that veterans make great additions to any workforce. With skills in planning, leadership, mentoring, personnel and administrative operations, problem-solving, negotiation, advocacy, communication, and in a multitude of technical fields, veterans are a welcome addition to any team.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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To All Veterans: Thank you for your service!

Before working to protect human health and the environment, EPA scientists Swinburne A. J. (Jason) Augustine, Ph.D. and Heriberto Cabezas, Ph.D. worked to protect our country while serving in the U.S. Military. Both scientists recently shared some thoughts about their work for our “EPA Researchers@Work” website, and we are highlighting those interviews on Veterans Day, 2012 as part of our efforts to thank Veterans everywhere for their service.

Dr. Jason Augustine at Work Scientist at Work: Interview with A.J. (Jason) Augustine, Ph.D.

Dr. Swinburne A. J. Augustine (Jason), Ph.D. is an EPA Research Microbiologist/Immunologist. His research is aimed at developing and applying rapid, cost-effective and multiplexed immunoassays to determine and/or measure human exposures to environmental pathogens using antibodies in human saliva as biomarkers of exposure. He is a member of the American Association of Immunologists and the American Society for Microbiology. Dr. Augustine also served in the U.S. Army.

How does your science matter?

Every day, we are exposed to a myriad of harmful environmental (airborne, food-borne, and waterborne) organisms. Sometimes they make us sick but more often than not, our immune system protects us from these pathogens. My research uses antibodies in human saliva to measure levels of exposure to environmental pathogens. Epidemiologists use this data to determine if the levels of exposure are high enough to be harmful to humans. This information helps inform Agency decisions on what measures should be taken to protect human health. My research partners and I are analyzing multiple pathogens simultaneously, which saves EPA time and money.

Click here to read the whole interview.

EPA's Dr. CabezasScientist at Work: Interview with Dr. Heriberto Cabezas, Ph.D.

Dr. Heriberto Cabezas, Ph.D. is currently the Senior Science Advisor to the Sustainable Technology Division in EPA’s National Risk Management Research Lab, where he works to advance the scientific understanding, development, and application of science and technologies to address a variety of areas related to sustainability. He was formerly an Acting Director of the Division, and Chief of the Sustainable Environments Branch.

How does your science matter?

My work focuses on preventing environmental problems from happening in the first place. I mostly work on designing processes that have the smallest environmental footprint.

More recently, I have been working on sustainability. We have to ask ourselves, “How can we successfully manage the environment so that we avoid environmental problems in the long term?” The kinds of things that my coworkers and I do matter because it’s the best way to protect the environment and human health: being proactive. We’re not trying to fix a problem after it has already occurred, but trying to see if we can prevent the problems from occurring in the first place. I think that is important.

Click here to read the whole interview.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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