Gulfport secretary Sandra Brown named DeCA's Disabled Employee of the Year
FORT LEE, Va. – Sandra Brown, secretary at Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport Commissary, Mississippi, has been named DeCA’s Disabled Employee of the Year for 2018.
Brown started life as an Air Force brat, born at Zaragoza Air Base in Spain. Her father, Joseph Jegg, served 29 years, and retired as a chief master sergeant. Brown herself served two years in the Navy, meeting her husband and having two children before beginning her commissary career at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Commissary, Cuba, in 1991.
Brown was 30 when she was diagnosed with damage to her nervous system. “I have peripheral neuropathy that causes permanent numbness and tingling in both legs and feet and it causes balance problems. I also have drop foot on both sides, which is why I wear leg braces,” she explained.
Because of her own history, Brown said she realizes how important the commissary benefit is to military families. “Growing up as a dependent I loved shopping with my mom, but I didn’t realize at the time how much money we saved on groceries,” she said. “Today, as an employee and authorized patron I feel very privileged to serve our military and their families,” she added.
Brown was one of 25 other civilians and service members with disabilities to receive Department of Defense Achievement and Recognition Awards Oct. 4 during the annual Department of Defense Disability Awards ceremony at the Pentagon.
“Today’s awards underscore the Department’s effort to empower each and every individual,” said Kevin Kelly, deputy director of DOD’s Office of Force Resiliency, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. “However those efforts extend beyond just today. Our inclusive culture demands we recognize the innovation, creativity and dignity of every person supporting the DOD mission.
“It is in our diverse perspectives and experiences that we advance,” he added. “It is in our ability to bring together shared goals, but unique perspectives, that we remain at the forefront of innovation.”
According to Kevin Hennelly, director, equal employment opportunity for DeCA, the annual event is always inspirational, and this year was no different. “I have attended several of these ceremonies and I am always moved by the achievements of the award winners. I was particularly inspired by the remarks from the keynote speaker, Senior Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro. His message of persistence and determination in response to the effects of the severe injuries he experienced in Afghanistan should teach us all to focus on our abilities and the contributions we are able to make to our families and our country.”
Brown said she hoped to provide a measure of inspiration as well. “I am so honored to receive this award and I very much want to be an inspiration to others who have disabilities. I am very excited to represent the Defense Commissary Agency.”
Employees also named for honorable mention by DeCA’s disability awards selection board were Angela Rutan, a store worker at Fort Wainwright Commissary, Alaska, and Jason Traskauskas a store worker at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Commissary in California.
DOD has posted video of the entire awards ceremony. Senior Master Sgt. Del Toro’s remarks begin around the 21-minute mark.
-- By Mike Perron, DeCA public affairs specialist
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.