Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees in honor of Veteran’s Day.
When Congress first declared November 11th as a holiday that ultimately became Veterans Day, it said the day should be marked with “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”
I am fortunate that in my two careers — one in the U.S. Army and one in the U.S. Department of Commerce — it was my mission to do just that.
I began my career in the U.S. Army and had the best job in the service; that’s no exaggeration. For six years, I followed Army units around Europe, Southwest Asia and the great Commonwealth of Kentucky as a photographer and videographer. I did my best to tell soldiers’ stories, and to help people in the United States and abroad understand the important missions my colleagues took on every day.
I regularly think back to some of the work we did, like when I joined the airborne troops of 5th Quartermaster Company to photograph one of their jumps, only to learn after takeoff that the C-130 pilot also needed to practice “evasive maneuvers,” which did not make for the smoothest ride. That is the only day I have ever been envious of people who were jumping out of an aircraft.
My unit participated in the ceremony recognizing the 60th anniversary of D-Day, and I had the honor of interviewing veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944. There was a man who I swear could still beat me in a race who recounted his feelings about the war stating, “Oh, it didn’t bother me at all.” That was tough to believe, but you don’t often question someone who’s been through something like that and lived to tell about it.
And I remember being inside a trailer on Camp Victory in Ballad, Iraq, recording video messages for home from the deployed members of 95th Military Police Battalion. There was one soldier whose message would be the first time his newborn son would ever hear his father’s voice or see his face. The soldier kept reaching out to the camera as if by touching it, he would be touching his baby. Giving that tape to those Soldiers’ families back home might have been the most meaningful work I ever did.
Working now in the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration is something I see as a continuation of my service in the military. Just like in the Army, my job is to tell the stories of the work my colleagues do through assisting U.S. exporters and attracting foreign direct investment. Their work supports millions of American jobs, and it’s something in which we all take a great amount of pride.
And this work in international trade and business is right at the core of promoting mutual understanding and goodwill between nations — it’s an everyday perpetuation of what Congress asked Americans to do every November 11th. One recent example of this was at the Trade Winds Business Forum and Trade Mission in Bucharest. I heard U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm and Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose repeatedly reference trade as a key pillar in U.S. relations with Southeast Europe. I witnessed first-hand the ability of our government to connect U.S. companies and organizations to promising business opportunities. I am proud to be part of a team of professionals who work tirelessly every day to help U.S. business compete at home and abroad.
On Veterans Day and every day, I salute all of the great men and women who are serving or who have served in our armed forces, and I give thanks to all who have fought to perpetuate peace and goodwill around the world.