The 33 federal employees nominated for the 2012 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals gathered for a breakfast in their honor Wednesday morning at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington.

Finalists for the prestigious medal sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service are throughout the government and will compete for nine awards, including federal employee of the year.

Shane Morris is a 29-year-old Frankfurt, Germany-based, diplomatic courier who delivered sensitive dispatches during the Middle East’s Arab Spring.

Neal Young is a blood specialist at the National Institutes of Health and a leading expert on aplastic anemia, a rare and deadly blood disorder. One of his patients was a Princeton University running back who was able to return to the gridiron.

Louis Milione and his team of special agents at the Drug Enforcement Agency captured a former Soviet air force officer who was an international arms dealer.

“To see them recognized today is very encouraging,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

The morning also had a particular poignancy related to one finalist, Michael F. Hertz. Hertz died of cancer on Friday. Serving as a deputy assistant attorney general, he was known as “Mr. False Claims Act,” and had recovered billions of taxpayer dollars.

Max Stier, Partnership president, noted the recent scandals involving federal workers — General Services Administration staff overspending on a training conference and Secret Service agents involved with prostitutes in Colombia — but added: “That’s not what you see here. There is no more better way to effective government than to highlight what’s good about government. Federal employees also need to hear about the good work they do.”

Medals will be awarded on Sept. 13.