Winners of the 2012 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals being awarded Thursday include researchers battling AIDS and bone marrow disease, a DEA agent who helped convict a notorious arms trafficker, and officials helping combat amputees and fighting veterans’ homelessness.
The “Sammies,” as they are informally known, are considered among the most prestigious awards for U.S. civil servants.
“In this political season, we see people again and again tearing down our government,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which sponsors the awards. “We will never get what we want out of our government if we focus solely on its shortcomings and fail to celebrate its successes.”
James Cash, the National Transportation Safety Board’s chief expert on cockpit voice recorders, is being awarded the Career Achievement
Medal for his work, which colleagues say has helped develop a new generation of recording devices, led to aviation reforms and resulted in greater safety for the traveling public.
Cash said he was humbled by his choice, but added that the awards are useful reminders of the work being done by federal workers, “especially in these times, when everybody’s fed bashing, from presidential candidates on down.”
Stier said the medals take on additional meaning in the wake of the killings of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya on Tuesday. “This is a reminder that our civil service puts itself in harm’s way,” he said.
“You look at Jim Cash and Chris Stevens, and these are amazing people, and the American people, by and large, don’t know their stories,” Stier added.
Lynne Mofenson of the National Institutes of Health has won top honors as Federal Employee of the Year for her role in battling AIDS among children by developing ways to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
Jacob Taylor, a 34-year-old physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has been awarded the Call to Service Medal for what the Partnership
calls “pioneering scientific discoveries that in time could lead to significant advances in health care, communications, computing and technology.” The award goes to a federal employee under the age of 35 in government service for less than five years.
Susan Angell, executive director of the Homeless Veterans Initiative for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Mark Johnston, acting Assistant
Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are being awarded the Citizen Services Medal for their work on an interdepartmental program credited with helping reduce the number of homeless veterans by 12 percent in one year, part of an ambitious national goal of ending veterans homelessness by 2015.
Chuck Scoville, chief of amputee patient care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in
Bethesda, won the National Security and International Affairs Medal for his work developing a sports-based rehabilitation program enabling combat amputees to lead active lives and potentially return to duty.
Special Agent Lou Milione and his “Operation Relentless” team at the Drug Enforcement Administration won the Justice and Law Enforcement Medal
for an undercover sting operation spanning three continents that resulted in the arrest and conviction of notorious arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Elliott B. Branch, the deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and procurement at the Navy,
was awarded the Management Excellence Medal for his work overseeing major acquisition for the Navy and Marines, “ensuring our warfighters have the right equipment when they need it, at the best possible value for the American taxpayer,” according to the Partnership.
Neal Young, chief of the hermatology branch at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health was honored with the Science and Environment Medal for ground-breaking research and treatments for patients with bone marrow failure diseases, including the rare and once deadly blood disorder known as aplastic anemia.
Nael Samha and Thomas Roland, Jr., with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are to receive the Homeland Security Medal for their
work creating a smartphone application that allows agents in the field to quickly access law enforcement databases, which has led to enforcement actions against more than 450 drug traffickers, weapons smugglers, illegal aliens and potential terror suspects since March 2010, the Partnership says.
The medals are named in honor of Samuel J. Heyman, who founded the partnership in the hopes of revitalizing federal government service.
This year’s winners were selected from a list of more than 400 nominees by a committee including representatives from the government, academia, and the private sector. Nominations for the 2013 awards are being accepted at www.servicetoamericamedals.org
The winners and finalists are to be honored at a gala Thursday evening in Washington.