On Thursday, Cash is being awarded with the 2012 Service to America Career Achievement Medal. The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, or “Sammies,” are considered among the most prestigious awards for U.S. civil servants.
But Cash, a 60-year-old Purcellville resident, considers his accomplishments modest in comparison to other federal employees being honored. This year’s winners include researchers battling AIDS and bone marrow disease, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who helped convict a notorious arms trafficker and officials helping combat amputees and fighting homelessness among veterans.
“Some of these people are doing incredible stuff,” said Cash, chief technical adviser for the NTSB’s Office of Research and Engineering. “I don’t consider myself in their category, so it’s kind of humbling.”
Cash, a former Air Force F-4 fighter pilot, said 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.”
That view is echoed by Max Stier, president and chief executive of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which sponsors the awards.
“In this political season, we see people again and again tearing down our government,” Stier said. “We will never get what we want out of our government if we focus solely on its shortcomings and fail to celebrate its successes.”
Stier said the medals take on additional meaning in the wake of the killings of 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 said.
Lynne Mofenson of the National Institutes of Health 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.
“I view this award as honoring the work of many hard-working and dedicated people, both within and outside of the government, who contributed to the research that has enabled us to now talk about an AIDS-free generation of children,” Mofenson said.
Jacob Taylor, a 34-year-old physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, won the Call to Service Medal for “pioneering scientific discoveries that in time could lead to significant advances in health care, communications, computing and technology,” the Partnership for Public Service said. The award goes to a federal employee younger than 35 in government service for less than five years.
The “Sammies,” as the highly regarded honors are known, are offered in nine categories and sponsored by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.