Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

On Senate Floor, Sen. Kaufman Recognizes Great Federal Employees, Gregory Symes and Samuel Heyman

November 10, 2009

Mr. KAUFMAN. Madam President, 90 years ago this Wednesday, President Wilson signed a proclamation marking the first anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. At the time, many believed the cruelty experienced by the combatants and civilian victims of that war would never be surpassed. Unfortunately, as we learned later, they were mistaken. But it was the tragedy of that conflict and the harrowing stories brought back from the trenches that led to the establishment of a day honoring America's veterans.

Veterans Day is a moment of pause to remember the sacrifices made by those who wore our Nation's uniform. It also presents an opportunity to reflect on the dual nature of our Federal Government.

When average Americans hear ``Federal employees,'' they usually think of the 1.8 million civilian government employees. However, it is all too often forgotten that the 1.4 million men and women serving in uniform are also Federal employees. Our Federal workforce has two legs--the civilian and the military. But they march together in step, because we depend on both and they depend on one another.

Without the military, we could not remain free and secure. Without the civilian Federal workforce, we could not keep America on the path toward prosperity and the continued pursuit of happiness. Civilian Federal employees work closely with the military not only to craft strategies and policies but also to pay, arm, and care for our troops.

While some choose to serve in uniform and others in civilian roles, there are many who do both. According to the 2006 study by the Office of Personnel Management, one out of every four civilian Federal employees is a military veteran. Moreover, a fifth of these are disabled veterans. And that is just in the executive branch. This number doesn't even include those who currently serve in the National Guard or the many veterans working right here on Capitol Hill and in the Federal Judiciary. They work in nearly every department and agency.

Not surprisingly, some of the agencies with the highest percentage of veterans are those that relate to law enforcement. The Pentagon too employs many veterans, as does the Department of Homeland Security. Almost half of the civilian employees in the Veterans Benefits Administration are veterans themselves. However, many Americans do not realize that roughly one in every three employees at the Department of Transportation is a veteran. The same is true of the Mine Safety and Health Administration at the Department of Labor. Over a third of those working at the U.S. Mint are veterans. I bet most Americans would be surprised to learn veterans make up a quarter of those who work at the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art.

It would take me a long time to read through all the departments and agencies with large numbers of veterans on staff. But the point I empha is that so many of our Federal employees share a tradition of national service that began with their service in the military.

Today, I wish to continue my weekly tradition of recognizing an outstanding Federal employee by sharing the story of a man from my home State of Delaware. Not only does he fill a full-time job as a Federal technician for the Delaware National Guard, but he also recently completed a year of active-duty service.

CSM Gregory Symes had already served in the Delaware Army National Guard for 7 years when he started working as a Federal technician for the Guard in 1989. A graduate of John Dickinson High School in Wilmington, Gregory trained as an automotive mechanic. While he began his Federal employment in that role, he studied telecommunications and in 2001 became a telecommunications specialist for the Delaware Guard's Director of Information Management.

Gregory has served truly as a mentor to those working alongside him and he has risen to become the senior enlisted adviser to the battalion commander for the 722nd Troop Command. In this capacity, he is often given the task of looking after the well-being of other soldiers in the battalion.

Last month, Gregory completed a 1-year deployment on active duty with the 261st Signal Brigade, and he was stationed at Fort Bliss, NM, in support of Iraqi Freedom. Decorated for his service, Gregory has received the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, among others.

He continues to serve with dedication and distinction in his Federal role with the Guard, staying in the forefront of ever-changing telecommunications technology. For Gregory and all the other veterans and National Guard members who work as Federal employees, sacrifice and service are a life's pursuit. They are a constant reminder of why Veterans Day is so important.

While on Memorial Day we remember those who never made it home, on Veterans Day we dedicate ourselves to the task of caring for those who did. Care and gratitude for our veterans remains a sacred responsibility, and one that was as relevant to those who fought at Bunker Hill as it is to those stationed in Baghdad today.

George Washington once said:

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.

I hope all Americans will take the opportunity this week to express their appreciation of all our veterans, especially those who continue to serve in the public as Federal employees. I invite my colleagues to join me in thanking Command Sergeant Major Symes, the Federal employee of the Delaware National Guard, and all who have served our Nation in uniform.

They continue to make us all proud.

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