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Billy Bowens, who suffered 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. Bowens, an employee of the Los Angeles Air Force Base (AFB) Commissary, was honored Dec. 4 at the Pentagon, along with 16 others, at an award ceremony paying tribute 2012 Outstanding Department of Defense Employees and Service Members with Disabilities.
As a client of PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), Washington, D.C.-based Paralyzed Veterans of America’s career program, Bowens, 71, was placed in a job as a store associate in February 2011. He has maintained a near-perfect attendance record since then and 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 Joan Haskins, PAVE Long Beach vocational rehabilitation counselor.
Although Bowens was told he’d never walk again, following neck surgery and a long rehabilitation process including physical therapy five days a week, he was able to walk and use his hands again in 2008.
“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.
“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,” added Haskins. “We’re out here to help any veteran who can use our assistance.”
PAVE, which is provided free of charge to veterans, is currently working with nearly 1,500 clients across the country and has helped more than 450 hard-to-place and/or disabled clients achieve their vocational objectives.