WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Vietnam veteran Billy Bowens, who sustained a spinal cord injury while serving in Vietnam in the 173rd Airborne, has been selected as the Defense Commissary Agency’s (DeCA) Department of Defense (DoD) Disabled Employee of the Year. He is being honored this evening at the Pentagon, along with 16 others, at an award ceremony for the 2012 Outstanding Department of Defense Employees and Service Members with Disabilities. Bowens currently works at the Los Angeles Air Force Base Commissary.
The 71-year-old Bowens, who is a client of PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), Paralyzed Veterans of America’s career program was placed in his job at the L.A. Base Commissary in February 2011 after working closely with Joan Haskins, PAVE Long Beach vocational rehabilitation counselor. Haskins helped Bowens secure a job at the Commissary as a store associate. He has since been promoted to produce manager.
“Billy has over four decades of retail store produce manager experience so when he was ready, we began identifying part-time positions and employers,” said Haskins.
Bowens, who was never expected to walk again, went through a long rehabilitation process after neck surgery (C-2 through C-8 vertebrae) in 2006.
“I lived each day in a wheelchair with faith and hope that someday I would walk again,” said Bowens.
Two years later, after physical therapy five days a week, he was able to walk and use his hands again through “keeping faith, hope and good therapy.”
DeCA, recognizing Billy’s extensive knowledge in the retail grocery business, hired him in 2011 at the L.A. Air Force Base Commissary, and Billy has maintained a near perfect attendance record since then.
“Mr. Bowens is an outstanding example of fortitude and drive, and shows that at any age given the right support, a great deal is possible,” said Alfredo Alferrez, store director for the Los Angeles AFB Commissary.
Haskins believes that Billy is the “unofficial ambassador” for Paralyzed Veterans’ PAVE program.
“He shows that you don’t have to be a recent veteran to receive the help you deserve, and just because he was paralyzed doesn’t mean he could not work again,” stressed Haskins. “We’re out here to help any veteran who can use our assistance.”
Paralyzed Veterans PAVE program is currently working with nearly 1500 clients across the country and has helped over 450 hard-to-place and/or disabled PAVE clients achieve their vocational objectives. The program’s services are provided free of charge to all veterans thanks to the generous support of sponsors. To learn more about PAVE, visit www.operationpave.org.
About Paralyzed Veterans of America:
Paralyzed Veterans of America was founded by a group of seriously injured American heroes from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II. They created a nonprofit organization to meet the challenges that they faced back in the 1940s—from a medical community not ready to treat them to an inaccessible world. For more than 66 years, Paralyzed Veterans’ national office and its 34 chapters across the nation have been making America a better place for all veterans and people with disabilities. (www.pva.org)