Honoring those who served

By Paul Rhien

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Virtual celebration marks Veterans Day at Sandia

Sandia singers perform national anthem virtually
STAR-SPANGLED SONG — The Sandia Singers performed the national anthem during the Labs’ 2020 Veterans Day virtual event. (Images courtesy of Sandia Military Support Committee)

Hundreds were in attendance as Sandia’s Military Support Committees held their annual Veterans Day Celebration on Nov. 12. The ceremony — held virtually this year due to the pandemic — honored the achievements and sacrifices of Sandia’s vet­erans, active military personnel, guardsmen, reservists and their families.

Traditionally, Veterans Day events are orga­nized at Sandia’s Albuquerque and Livermore sites to mark the holiday. Because the ceremony was held via livestream, it created a rare opportu­nity to bring the Labs together for a single, com­bined event. Distinguished guests and active duty military members from Kirtland Air Force Base also were in attendance.

Saluting Sandia’s veterans

“Veterans are an important part of Sandia’s rich history, our present and our future,” said Andy McIlroy, associate labs director for Integrated Security Solutions, as he addressed viewers. “Every day, Sandia directly supports warfight­ers around the world in many ways. I know that our great nation is stronger and safer because of the work we do at Sandia. Much of this work is accomplished and enabled by veterans.”

Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks on video
STATE APPRECIATION — New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed gratitude for the service and sacrifice of Sandia’s veterans and their families.

Veterans make up about 10% of Sandia’s workforce.

In pre-recorded remarks, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham thanked military, Sandia employees and families.

“There’s no adequate way for me to express my profound gratitude to all of you,” Lujan Grisham said. “We can never fully repay the debt we owe our nation’s veterans.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging year for all of us,” she said. “But one thing I’ve been reminded of amid these crises is that the will­ingness to serve is a core American value and a New Mexico value too. Service is a calling and those who answer the call exemplify the best of our values — the willingness to stand up and act, the bravery and courage it takes to think of others before yourself, to make an individual effort to support a collective good.”

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Kirtland Air Force Base Commander Colonel David Miller also addressed attendees in the video.

Experience of a lifetime

Colonel Sergio de la Peña speaking via video
HONORING THOSE IN UNIFORM — Colonel Sergio de la Peña, former deputy assis­tant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs and retired U.S. Army officer was the keynote speaker at Sandia’s 2020 Veterans Day celebration.

Colonel Sergio de la Peña, former deputy assis­tant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs and retired U.S. Army officer was the event’s keynote speaker.

Recently retired from his post as deputy assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs at the Pentagon, de la Peña reflected on his more than three decades of military service in a variety of staff and leadership positions.

From a young age, de la Peña was mentored by employers and high school teachers who were veter­ans, and who shared their life experiences, taught him how to work and to appreciate the value of those who have worn the uniform of military service.

“Those were the guys that had the biggest impact on my life; I was grateful for all they taught me,” de la Peña said as he named several teachers and mentors with fondness. “These are the kinds of people — these veterans — who form and shape you.”

After his older brother encouraged him to join ROTC at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, de la Peña continued on to Airborne and Ranger school and spent more than 30 years in the U.S. Army.

“It was the experience of my life,” he said. “We learned from the best. One of the things I always appreciated was the level of sacrifice that people were willing to make to get the job done, to protect our country, to be ambassadors of who we are to the rest of the world.”

“I met the finest people that I’ve ever met in my life while I was in military service. I learned that my heroes were really pretty much across the board in all of the armed services and the many civilians that supported us. And that includes the work that you do at Sandia.”

De la Peña closed his keynote address by thank­ing Sandians for their service to the nation, espe­cially the veterans. “I owe a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. I will always do my very best with the gratitude that comes from having served and learned from so many of you.”

Challenge coin recognition

image of 2020 challenge coin front and back
2020 Challenge coin

Sandia veterans were presented with chal­lenge coins, representing a token of appreciation to all of Sandia’s veterans and service members. Due to the virtual nature of the event, veterans and cur­rent or former service members are invited to reach out to the Military Support Committees to obtain their coins from this year’s commemoration.

Additionally, the MSCs invite Sandians to help honor those who are currently deployed. If you know a Sandian, relative, friend or neighbor who is deployed, please send their name and military address to the MSC in California or New Mexico. They will work with the Blue Star Moms to ensure the delivery of a care package to the deployed ser­vice member.

Employees can view the recorded event on the Labs’ internal Digital Media library or visit wp.sandia.gov/msc to learn more about Sandia’s MSCs, claim their challenge coin or help support deployed loved ones.