Despite COVID-19-related changes, enthusiasm ran high during the Nov. 10 NIEHS Veterans Day celebration. “Once again, coronavirus has rained on our parade, so this year’s program is a bit different,” said NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP) Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., who led the virtual event.
Woychik described his military experience as a U.S. Navy medical corpsman and intelligence officer before introducing a moving presentation that kicked off the event. The slideshow presented NIEHS personnel and family member veterans, including Woychik’s father who served during WWII.
“Serving in the military is about service to our country, and the men and women who are or have been in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, and what they have sacrificed for our freedom,” he said.
The gathering also highlighted an appeal for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the annual federal charity drive (see sidebar). NIEHS and NTP are both raising funds for charities across the nation as well as contributing and hours of volunteer service.
The festivities featured tributes to several organizations providing much-needed services to veterans.
A personal story
Troy Deaton, a 20-year Air Force veteran working in the Office of the Director (OD), is an NIEHS CFC co-chair. He spoke of his own experience as a CFC beneficiary. Deaton and his wife received help in 1999 from Fisher House, which serves veterans and their families, when she became ill while they were stationed in Turkey.
“It was a long journey for my family, but with the generosity of those who donated and those who supported the CFC, we were able to stay together and support each other during that most trying time,” he said.
The Fort Bragg Fisher House provides a home-away-from-home for military families in need, similar to a Ronald McDonald House. It is one of 90 Fisher Houses in the U.S., Germany, and United Kingdom.
The Veterans Life Center in Butner, North Carolina, recognized during the 2019 Veterans Day celebration, was showcased again this year. The facility opened its doors in August 2020 and is fulfilling its mission to provide residential services to at-risk veterans who are experiencing problems reintegrating into civilian life.
Attendees also learned about Vet Centers. At locations across the country, Vet Centers provide a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referral services to combat veterans and their families.
The centers were started in 1979 to conduct outreach to Vietnam veterans. Today, there are 300 Vet Centers nationwide, including seven in North Carolina.
Participation — its own reward
Event organizers were happy to give their time and effort to putting together this year’s celebration.
“It’s been great to have the opportunity to give back to our own community within NIEHS and to honor the sacrifices people have made in their lives for the good of us all,” said Mary Jacobson, a program analyst in OD.
Her colleague and co-organizer Allison Eason agreed. “Any time there is something like CFC or an event for veterans, I like to volunteer some time. It’s just a good thing to do,” she said. Another OD colleague, Jenn Evans, organized the event’s slide show.
The Veterans Day planning committee includes volunteers from across the institute.
- OD — Troy Deaton, Kay Hudd.
- Office of Management — Chris Kimball, Juanita Campbell, Julie Nixon.
- Division of Extramural Research and Training — Leslie Lynch, Carolina Medina
- Division of the National Toxicology Program — Eli Ney.
(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)