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DoD Disability Awards Celebration Reflects Progress, Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2017 — The Pentagon’s annual awards ceremony that highlights the achievements of department employees with disabilities reflects the progress that’s been achieved, and also serves as a reminder that more remains to be done, Anthony M. Kurta, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said here today.

In the 37th Annual Secretary of Defense Disability Awards ceremony held in the Pentagon Auditorium today, 21 DoD service members and civilians with disabilities were recognized for their outstanding contributions supporting DoD’s mission.

DoD components and military departments also were recognized for their exemplary efforts to adopt and put in place promising programs and practices to advance a diverse and inclusive total force.

“I commend you all on the phenomenal strides you’ve made to improve the state of disability employment,” Kurta said. “The mission of personnel and readiness is to enhance the readiness of the all-volunteer force. And one of our key strengths in that all-volunteer force is our diversity.”

‘Inclusion Drives Innovation’

In his remarks, Kurta kicked off National Disability Employment Awareness Month at DoD with a 2017 theme of “Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

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“This theme underscores the value of inclusion of different perspectives and diverse abilities in the success of the total workforce,” he said. “Our service members and civilians with disabilities have driven DoD innovation in every capacity to include science, technology, medicine, readiness and much more.”

The awardees are integral to mission success and their perspectives and abilities are essential to the modernization of the total force, Kurta said.

The five components and military departments were recognized for increasing the employment of individuals with disabilities.

“The department applauds your efforts and encourages your continued progress in advancing opportunity in the DoD workforce, particularly for individuals with significant disabilities and our wounded warriors,” he said.

Inherent Dignity

In the words of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Kurta quoted, “‘We, in the Department of Defense acknowledge the inherent dignity of every human life. This dignity is bound by nothing beyond the simple fact of our common humanity. It belongs to us all. Nothing may add or subtract from it; no distinction may mar its inestimable value -- not color, creed, or any other category. No level of capability -- physical, mental or otherwise, whether the result of chance or design -- may alter it. The universal dignity of the human person persists.’”

In DoD’s celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the department reaffirms its commitment that a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential to maintaining a strong Total Force, he said.

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“Strengthening our efforts to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities will ensure that DoD remains a model employer in promoting and maintaining equal opportunity,” Kurta said, noting its high priority for DoD and the federal government.

“So, today, let us renew our commitment to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities,” he said, “and pledge to continue to make our department increasingly more open and accessible to all.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)


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