An inspirational talk, a raffle, refreshments, and presentations by community partners were just some of the highlights from this year’s NIEHS Veterans Day Celebration held Nov. 10. The event recognized the bravery and sacrifice of federal employees and contractors who have served in United States Armed Forces.
Bryan Duran, a retired senior chief petty officer from the U.S. Navy, who is an NIEHS information technology specialist, was the keynote speaker of the event.
Life’s lessons learned, applied
Duran shared a world map littered with pins representing the many naval missions and adventures he experienced during his two decades of service.
Aside from the fact that his primary job in the Navy was electronics, which controls most of the systems on today’s cruisers and destroyers, Duran also mentored, trained, and led some 250 sailors at any given time.
“Thank God I didn’t have any mishaps, and I had no sailors get hurt while I was on board the ship with my team,” he said. “That was always the number one priority — safety.”
Lessons learned while serving in the Navy applies to everyday life and work, according to Duran. “I have had countless life experiences in the Navy that I have been able to take into civilian life” he said. “I fall back on that training every single day.”
- Adventure expands the mind: “My view of the world from the small town in the middle of our country where I grew up and now are vastly different. I have been pretty much all over the world and it is an amazing eye-opening experience.”
- In leadership, people are key. “I always see people not as assets but as individuals. You must know every single person and know their strengths and weaknesses. We all have different motivations, different ways of doing things, and a good leader can identify and utilize that to make a mission successful. You can learn something from everybody.”
- Humor. “We all need to keep our sense of humor. We are not a bunch of robots out in the ocean. We are people just trying to get the mission accomplished.”
“We have a mission at NIEHS to support the scientific community, we have a purpose, and I absolutely get behind that mission and purpose every day,” he added.
Taking it to the ice
Every life choice brings you to a new adventure, your next mission, Duran told the audience.
“When I retired from the Navy, my kids were one and two, so they are affectionately known as my next adventure,” he joked.
Today, his children are nine and 10 years old. They both play ice hockey and practice five days a week, and now Duran does too.
Duran is a defenseman on the Carolina Hurricanes Warriors ice hockey team.
Carolina Hurricanes Warriors were originally established in 2019, formally known as the North Carolina Warriors Ice Hockey Program. In April, the team officially partnered with the Carolina Hurricanes and became one of 21 USA Hockey Warriors teams in the nation. The Warriors program is a disabled veteran’s ice hockey program that exists to benefit disabled veterans from the United States Military Services.
“It’s great camaraderie,” said Duran. “We get on the ice, and we do a lot of bonding.”
The 2022 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) was a feature of this year’s Veterans Day celebration. J’Ingrid Mathis, NIEHS executive officer and associate director for management, encouraged employees to give to the CFC or volunteer their time to one of the many partnered organizations.
Three such partner organizations — Purple Heart Homes, Paws 4 People, and Camp Corral — were invited to the event. Representatives from each organization explained how their mission serves veterans and their families.
The Veterans Day planning committee organized a giveaway for NIEHS veterans, and refreshments were served for onsite attendees. Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11 each year to honor military veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
(Jennifer Harker, Ph.D., is a technical writer-editor in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)