By Yvonne Johnson, APG NewsNovember 10, 2011
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Three stories of endurance after life-altering incidents were presented during the National Disability Employment Awareness Month program at the post theater Oct. 20.
Guest speakers included medically retired Staff Sgt. Kelly Keck, Staff Sgt. Mitch Court, Capt. Scott Quilty and active duty Capt. Tammy Phipps, an occupational therapist from the Walter Reed Military Medical Center at Bethesda.
Keck and Court are government civilians with the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and APG Garrison, respectively.
Jody Jackson, equal opportunity manager for the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, co-hosted the program with Sgt. 1st Class Laquita Wimbley, EO advisor, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, APG senior leader and commander of RDECOM said the mission of wounded warriors is to overcome their handicap and make themselves productive, contributing members of society once again.
"You have a chance to hear instances of trying to implement that mission," he told the audience.
Col. Orlando Ortiz, APG Garrison and deputy installation commander, told the trio of wounded warriors that he was proud to call them comrades in arms.
"We greatly admire your courage to serve our nation in times of war, deploy to those hostile environments, recover from your wounds and productively move on with your lives.
"We don't do everything perfect but one thing we do well is recognize our service members, particualarly our wounded warriors, and make a conscious effort to reintergrate them into government service. For this, we are proud."
Along with Justice and Ortiz, the official party included ATEC commander Maj. Gen. Genaro J. Dellarocco, ATEC Command Sgt. Maj. Allen Fritzsching and RDECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Marin.
The guest speakers shared stories of their injuries, their recovery and eventual return to society as workforce civilians.
Kelly Keck is the first wounded warrior intern assigned as an EEO specialist with ATEC after being medically retired from the Army in 2010. He was a medic for the 1st Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, Special Troops Battalion. During his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 he was wounded by an antipersonnel mine and evacuated to WRAMC where he was treated for a below the knee amputation and the loss of three fingers on his left hand.
Keck said he was proud to be a part of a program focusing on how people with disabilities can hold amazing jobs.
"We're here to remind you that we are able," he said.
Mitch Court is the first wounded warrior assigned to the Garrison's Emergency Operation Management Center. He was medically retired in 2010. A squad leader and platoon sergeant with the 3rd Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, Court was wounded while defending Soldiers during an ambush. He was evacuated to WRAMC where he was treated for chest, back and head trauma.
Court, who suffers from short-term memory loss and other ailments due to brain trauma, considers himself lucky.
"All my injuries are internal," he said, adding that he still must write everything down. "Try not to stereotype the disabled, because I did before I became one."
He said that although he never saw himself at APG, he's grateful that the Army takes care of its own.
"Even thought you don't have to be a vet to get a job here, I want people to realize there are more of us out there.
"Going to combat wasn't the scariest thing I've done in life," he added, "becoming a civilian was."
Scott Quilty became the director of business development for Fathom Creative, brand marketing company, after serving with a nonprofit organization serving survivors of war and conflict in six countries. Quilty was wounded after stepping on an IED while leading a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol in southern Baghdad's "Triangle of Death" in 2006. He lost his right arm and leg and spent the next 18 months recovering at WRAMC.
Quilty said that life was full of calculated risks and he realized he was taking one the night of the assault into enemy area. He said that while his 18 months of recovery was difficult, he knew he had a family to support and had to aggressively seek employment.
"I had to convince a management team that what I did in the service matters," he said. "I took a risk and he certainly took a risk when he hired me."
He encouraged listeners to "always take the time to thank a veteran" and asked organization leaders to consider veterans for positions "right here on APG."
"Take a risk on a veteran," he said.