REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala -- Two members of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command were awarded the 2022 Secretary of Defense Outstanding Employee Disability Award on Oct. 20, during the Department of Defense’s 42nd annual Disability awards ceremony.
April S. Pellegrino, an administrative support assistant, and Ken W. Evelyn, a Functional Area 40 force manager, both with the Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence’s Army Space Personnel Development Office, received their awards during a virtual ceremony streamed from the Pentagon.
Each October since 1981, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, DOD has honored individuals who have made significant contributions to the department’s mission and best demonstrate the core values of their respective DOD components.
“I was surprised that my leadership and (Lt.) Gen. (Daniel) Karbler put me in for this award,” Pellegrino said. “I love what I do. I love to support the Soldiers and officers in the U.S. Army and assist them in their career progression.”
Pellegrino struggled with health issues for more than 10 years before being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes because of her age. It was another three years before she was properly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas produces little to no insulin.
“I had little to no energy, I did not sleep well and could not exercise because of the level of energy and low blood sugar,” Pellegrino said. “Diabetes also affects your vision, and your vital organs in the body. My other organs weren’t functioning properly or were overfunctioning, leading to not feeling 100% on most days.”
When she was finally diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she was able to maintain her blood sugar and started working out regularly.
“As my diabetes is now more under control, life has now gotten better. However, every day is a different challenge,” Pellegrino said. “It’s about trying to find that good balance of proper eating, proper activity and proper rest. Having a great doctor helps as well.”
Pellegrino said that she hopes that the award brings attention and awareness to the disease.
“Without understanding one’s everyday struggle, it is easy to walk by them and wonder why they are not smiling today and assume they are not happy,” Pellegrino said. “When in reality, it was just a struggle getting up and getting to work that day.”
In her day-to-day, Pellegrino wears a glucose monitor and insulin pump to help maintain and monitor her blood sugar, but she always has to bring extra supplies for the unexpected, as well.
“I have to always be prepared for the unexpected by carrying glucose tabs, an emergency shot or ensuring those around me know what to do in case of an emergency, so it can be a little aggravating sometimes when you don’t want it to hold you back but it does,” Pellegrino said.
Evelyn said he was shocked when he found out he was receiving the award.
“I knew I was doing a decent job. My director always told me that, but I was truly in shock and happy and proud of everything that was going on in the office,” Evelyn said. “That let me know I was doing a good job within the organization and was glad to be recognized by my leadership, my command and by the CG, so I was extremely honored.”
Evelyn said he enjoys working with the team and the command.
“I recently retired from the Army about three years ago so it was good just to continue working with government employees and doing regular things that I was used to doing before,” Evelyn said. “Everyone’s really nice and the leadership is awesome.”
Evelyn said that his team worked really well during these last two years he has been with them.
“There was never a time where we struggled to get information out or complete any mission that was needed. Any time we were tasked, we were able to provide,” Evelyn said.
Evelyn said the award shows great representation.
“I do know it’s important to acknowledge and identify civilians with disabilities,” Evelyn said. “It’s always good to know that everybody’s able to work no matter your physical or mental limitations, background or anything holding you back. The command is willing to let you work and serve, regardless of your situation.”