Ability, not disability, takes center stage
December 9, 2009
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- "America's People, America's talent and America's strength" was the theme of the 26th Annual Disabilities Awards luncheon at Gibbs Hall, Nov. 5.
Cheryl Maloney, who works at the CECOM LCMC Software Engineering Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., was named Disabled Employee of the Year.
Linda Camp of the Fort Monmouth Garrison Equal Employment Opportunity office was also recognized for her 31 years of service as she announced her planned retirement for early 2010.
Guest speaker Jeffrey Klare, chief executive officer with Hire Disability Solutions, LLC, was the guest speaker for the event.
"Today, with the aid of technology, people with disabilities can accomplish so much," said Klare.
Klare, who grew up on the streets of the Bronx with dreams of playing for the New York Giants football team, instead found himself working in Human Resources.
He had a high performance rating and was set to be promoted when he discovered and revealed to his supervisor that he had a disability.
The promotion never came. Another employee with a lower performance rating was selected instead. The event made a lasting impression on Klare, leading him to dedicate his work to empowering the disabled.
"Several months ago I gave a speech at Camp Pendleton [Calif.]," Klare said. "On the way there, I kept seeing signs saying, 'Daddy, Welcome Home.' The signs were for a young sergeant who returned from a deployment but could only get a minimum wage job painting yellow caution stripes on stairways in office buildings because nobody wanted to look at him.
"His face had been severely disfigured due to a roadside bomb. That wasn't what he signed up for."
"He now works at the Pentagon earning more than $50,000 a year," said Klare.
"Whether you are deaf or blind or have no arms or legs, there's a job for you," he said. "We never ask what your disability is. We're only interested in what your ability is."
Although this year's annual event would more than likely be the last one held here, Maj. Gen. Randolph P. Strong said that it would not be the last disabilities awareness event that CECOM LCMC would honor.
"As we move physically, we move culturally. That includes our inclusiveness," he said. "I promise you that this will not be the last event as we move forward to Aberdeen Proving Ground."