More than 300 Social Security Administration personnel welcomed Col. (P) Jody J. Daniels, deputy commanding general of First Army Division East, to their annual Memorial Day Observance held at the Social Security Administration Headquarters building in Woodlawn, Md.
Daniels was invited by the Veterans and Military Affairs Assistance Committee [VMAAC], a volunteer committee open to all SSA employees and their family members. The VMAAC recognizes the contributions made to the nation by employees who serve in the military, veterans, and their families.
"It is my great privilege to introduce our key note speaker whose career exemplifies the patriotism and noble service that we celebrate today," said Michael J. Astrue, commissioner of Social Security.
Daniels was greeted enthusiastically as she approached the podium.
"I am here today on behalf of a great many people and organizations," said Daniels. "First and foremost, I am a Soldier. On behalf of all Soldiers, I want to thank you for taking this time to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our great nation and our way of life."
As Daniels continued she talked about the origin of Memorial Day, and how it is a uniquely American holiday.
"Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day, and it was officially observed for the first time on May 30th, 1868 because it was not the anniversary of a battle. It was not a day to commemorate war, it was a day to celebrate, to decorate, to show pride and dignity, honor, distinction and glory; to honor and commemorate the lives sacrificed in service."
Daniels concluded by encouraging the crowd not to forget the price that has been paid for freedom.
"It is fitting for us to celebrate that freedom today. Our celebration is what truly makes us American, but celebrate with a purpose," she said. "Decorate and honor those who gave their lives for our nation, and decorate and honor their families. Decorate and honor the difference they made in your lives."
Her final words were met with a standing ovation followed by a brief moment of silence to honor those who have given their lives in the name of freedom.
Following the observance, VMAAC thanked Daniels and pledged to send a care package on her behalf to deployed service members.
"We are advocates for our military population and engage in activities that strengthen our community," said Erin Fisher, an administrative assistant and volunteer member of VMAAC. "We send care packages to active-duty military units forward deployed as well as support non-profit programs for homeless veterans, and wounded warriors."
VMAAC also supports various organizations and projects like the Naval JROTC program at Woodlawn High School in Woodlawn, Md., veteran hiring initiatives, Veteran Employee Recruiting events, and mentorship programs for VMAAC members in career development.