APG recognizes sacrifices, contributions of Wounded Warriors
October 24, 2011
- "Freedom is not free. There is a price for freedom."
- "I know things that no boardroom can teach you."
- "My abilities are not controlled by my physical disability."
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Soldiers wounded in combat sacrificed greatly for their country. Now, they are working as civilians to overcome their disabilities and lead normal lives.
Three Wounded Warriors gathered at APG's Post Theater to share their stories. They have confronted amputations, brain injury and memory loss, but they have achieved renewed, vibrant careers after military service.
Their discussion panel was a highlight of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month ceremony Oct. 20.
Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Marin, senior noncommissioned officer for U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, introduced the speakers.
"Freedom is not free. There is a price for freedom," Marin said. "Our men and women in uniform pay the ultimate sacrifice -- some with their lives and others with wounds."
STAFF SGT. MITCH COURT
During Staff Sgt. Mitch Court's third deployment to Iraq in 2009, he was severely wounded while defending Soldiers who had been ambushed. The enemy fired on Court's squad. He was shot, lost consciousness and subsequently underwent surgery to his legs, face, lung and ribs.
Court discussed his struggles to leave his life as a Soldier -- a life he loved -- and become a civilian.
"The scariest thing I did in my life was not going to combat; it was becoming a civilian," Court said. "I had my first panic attack. After everything I had been through, I had never had one.
"Where am I going? Who is going to help me now? No longer being a Soldier terrified me. I'm not [a Soldier] anymore, but in my heart, I still am."
The speakers shared a consistent message -- just because a veteran has a disability, whether visible or not, does not prevent him from being an asset in the workplace.
Court now works as an intern at the APG Emergency Operations Center.
"Of all places I thought I'd find myself, this is not one of them, but it's working. Someone took a chance on me," he said. "I know things that no boardroom can teach you."
STAFF SGT. KELLY KECK
In 2008, Staff Sgt. Kelly Keck, serving as a medic in Afghanistan, was responding to a vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device. While approaching the blast site, he was severely wounded by an antipersonnel mine. Doctors amputated his right leg and fingers on his left hand.
Keck stressed that federal, state and local agencies are available to help disabled workers perform as well as everyone else.
"My abilities are not controlled by my physical disability," he said.
He is the first Wounded Warrior intern assigned as an Equal Employment Opportunity specialist for the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command.
CAPT. SCOTT QUILTY
Capt. Scott Quilty deployed to Iraq in 2006. While leading a joint U.S.-Iraqi air assault into a small Baghdad village at night to search door-to-door for the enemy, he stepped on an IED. He lost his right arm and right leg.
Quilty encouraged the audience to take calculated risks in their lives.
"I took a risk getting on that Blackhawk. I took a risk walking through that door for my job interview. My CEO took a risk by giving me a chance. Together, we found out how far we could go," Quilty said.
He praised his boss for looking beyond his lack of job experience in the civilian world. Soldiers' resumes look different from civilians, he said.
"I walked into a leading Web design firm in Washington, D.C., with next-to-no industry experience," Quilty said. "I attempted to convince the management that what I did in service and more specifically how I led in Iraq, not what I lost, made a difference.
"I took a risk when I walked through that door, and he certainly took a risk in hiring me."
The unemployment rate for disabled veterans is much higher than the national average, Quilty said. America's veterans need companies to take a calculated risk on them.
"Consider a disabled veteran for a position you may be hiring at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Take a risk on a veteran-owned small business or a business that is making a commitment to employing returning veterans. I encourage you to take a risk and see how far we can go together," Quilty said.
AGENCIES ASSISTING DISABLED WORKERS
After the panel discussion, agencies that assist the disabled demonstrated their services.
Pentagon Client Assistance Program helps people who have concerns or difficulties when applying for or receiving rehabilitation services funded under the Rehabilitation Act.
Maryland's Technology Assistance Program provides services to disabled Maryland residents, offering tools to help disabled Marylanders and seniors enjoy the same rights and opportunities as other citizens.
Maryland Relay is a telecommunications service that allows almost anyone in the world to communicate with people with speech or hearing loss through the phone.