Remarks by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the Commerce 2021 Veterans Day Program

Thank you, Tiffany, for that kind introduction. And thank you, Roseal and the Veterans Day Planning Committee, for organizing this important event. As the Secretary said, today we honor the memory of our veterans who fought and died to protect our nation.

This year’s theme is the Centennial Commemoration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – the unknown men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice throughout our history.

Many of our veterans at Commerce, and in attendance here today, may not talk about their stories of heroism, or the battles they survived – both personally and professionally. You may not even know that some of your colleagues are veterans. At different points, they each left their families, their homes, and their communities to preserve our way of life and our democracy.

In normal circumstances, I’d ask each member of our armed services to stand. But since we’re doing this remotely, let’s take a moment to honor each of them. Even remotely, we see you, we hear you, and we thank you. We also recognize that not all wounds of war are visible – and we’re here to support you in that aspect as well.

I’d also usually ask for the family members of a serviceman or woman to stand. We know you’ve weathered difficult times and carried the heavy burden of keeping your homes functioning in your loved one’s absence. So thank you for your service and sacrifice.

At Commerce, we’re committed to hiring veterans – because we understand how integral they are to our success as a Department. When there’s a veteran on your team, you know you’re getting a loyal, dedicated, mission-oriented, self-motivated employee. These men and women are bred for excellence in leadership, mentorship, and teamwork. They’re ingrained with integrity, loyalty, and “service before self.”

They trained at young ages to handle difficult, consequential tasks – from intelligence collection to nuclear warfare. And they understand the power of diversity and inclusion because they come from different backgrounds, professions, races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations. Which is why I strongly encourage managers to hire veterans.

If you are not fully aware of the opportunities afforded to managers with the veteran hiring authorities, please reach out to your liaison, Ms. Jessica Bensel, and Mr. Roseal Fowlkes. And although we can never fully serve our veterans the way they’ve served us, we’re committed to doing our best.

The Department of Commerce already employs nearly 6,000 veterans − and we’re increasing their employment throughout the Department. We have a Veterans Affinity Group and a Veterans Employment Manager Program. We actively recruit veterans through the Operation Warfighter, Wounded Warrior, and Department of Defense Skillbridge training programs. We offer internship opportunities to attract transitioning veterans and put them on a path towards employment at the Department.

We also mandate Veterans Employment Training for all HR professionals and supervisors. And we’re forging partnerships with other federal government agencies, veteran service organizations, colleges, universities, and other institutions to provide veterans opportunities. So with that, I’d like to personally thank all our veterans for your service to our Department and to our country.

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