Have you heard about the big scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department? Thought so. How about Dr. William A. Bauman and Ann M. Spungen of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, who have worked tirelessly for years to help people with spinal cord injuries? Didn't think so.
Have you heard about the United States’ struggles to respond to the ebola epidemic in Africa? Thought so. How about Dr. Rana Hajjeh, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who led a campaign to get 60 countries to adopt the use of a vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type b that is projected to save the lives of 7 million children by 2020? Didn’t think so.
Have you heard about the billions of dollars government has lost to Medicare fraud? Thought so. How about special agents Omar Perez Aybar and Reginald J. France of the Office of the Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Department, who teamed up with the Justice Department to win 685 convictions and return nearly $1 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund? Didn’t think so.
All of the people named above are winners of this year’s Service to America Medals. At a time when government seems plagued by a never-ending cycle of scandals and controversies, the Partnership for Public Service goes out of its way each year in the Sammies program to tell the stories of federal employees who not only take tremendous pride in what they do, but achieve great things on behalf of their country. This year’s Sammie recipients were honored at a black-tie dinner on Monday night in Washington.
It was, as always, a stirring event, attracting high-wattage guests such as Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
The honorees these dignitaries introduced have three things in common:
- Deep dedication to public service
- Utter anonymity, despite the depth and breadth of their accomplishments
They also, in many cases, are enablers of greatness -- the kind of people who work behind the scenes to make sure high-profile efforts succeed. So when NASA decided to turn orbital transportation over to the private sector, Alan J. Lindenmoyer crafted the agreements to make it happen. When U.S. forces in Afghanistan faced deadly improvised explosive devices, Benjamin Tran and Sean Young of the Air Force Research Laboratory developed an aerial sensor system to help protect them.
They and the other Sammie winners are the true unsung heroes of the bureaucracy.