Sandia LabNews

Sandia honors veterans in annual ceremonies

Image of Veterans2023_1_1000x667
HONORING THEIR SERVICE — Recently retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Michele LaMontagne, left, with Deputy Labs Director David Gibson, center, presents a coin to co-worker Dolores Black, who served in the Air Force, during the annual Veterans Day celebration hosted the Military Support Committee at the Steve Schiff Auditorium in New Mexico on Nov. 9. Michele gave the event’s keynote address. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Sandia commemorated Veterans Day in New Mexico and California with in-person and virtual events Nov. 9. Labs leaders thanked those who have donned the uniforms of the U.S. armed services for their dedication, courage and sacrifice. Celebrating the diversity of veterans and their contributions featured prominently in this year’s celebrations.

In New Mexico

Brian Carter, chief human resources officer and Military Support Committee executive champion, emceed the New Mexico event at the Steve Schiff Auditorium and introduced the Sandia Singers, who performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Image of Veterans2023_3_1000x667
HONOR GUARD — Devan Hudson with the Kirtland Air Force Base Honor Guard waits for the start of the annual Veterans Day celebration hosted the Military Support Committee at the Steve Schiff Auditorium Nov. 9. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

“Today, our veteran community reflects the strides that we as a nation have made to embrace patriots from diverse backgrounds and to recognize their commitment and sacrifice to protect our homeland and advance freedom throughout the world,” said Brian, a U.S. Air Force retiree.

These strides, Brian said, are reflected in the Labs’ commitment to employing and retaining veterans and have resulted in Sandia earning its third HIRE Vets Medallion from the Department of Labor.

David Gibson, deputy Laboratories director and chief operating officer, introduced keynote speaker Brig. Gen. Michele LaMontagne, who recently retired from the New Mexico Air National Guard, where she served as Assistant Adjutant General. She was the first woman in over 75 years to serve as the commander of the New Mexico Air National Guard. Michele, manager of Sandia’s Leadership and Organizational Development department, also served as senior military adviser to New Mexico’s governor.

Michele recounted the contributions of women in the U.S. military.

“Today we not only celebrate the valor and sacrifices of all veterans, but today I also want to shine a light on the remarkable contributions of women throughout the history of our nation’s military,” she said.

“There are twice as many women serving from when I entered the Air Force Academy about 35 years ago,” she said. “Many times throughout my career I was hard-pressed to find a female mentor. They were few and far between if they were to be found at all. Today, I’d like to honor the women who opened the doors and paved the way for people like me.”

Michele spoke about some of the women who have answered the call to military service in U.S. history. To hear her full talk, employees can visit Sandia’s Digital Media Library.

In California

Image of Veterans2023_2_1000
CHALLENGE COINS — Lt. Col. Ezekiel Moreno of the University of California, Berkeley, Army ROTC hands out challenge coins to veterans of the armed forces. Veterans at both ceremonies received a coin as a token of appreciation. (Photo by Randy Wong)

The California ceremony opened with Chair of the Military Support Committee David Colón introducing the master of ceremonies, Brooks McCall from the Sandia Field Office.

The University of California, Berkeley, ROTC presented the colors as Sandia’s volunteer choir, the Thundertones, sang the national anthem.

McCall highlighted the role that Latino veterans have played in U.S. military history. “Hispanic and Latino Americans have been pivotal participants in U.S. military history, dating back to the Revolutionary War,” McCall said. “There have been more than 60 Hispanic recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest award for bravery and valor against an enemy.”

Trish Benguerel, deputy associate labs director for Sandia’s Integrated Security Solutions division, introduced keynote speaker Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas, garrison commander of the U.S. Army Parks Reserve Forces Training Area at Camp Parks in Dublin, California.

Chalas was the first Latina in the National Guard to pilot a Black Hawk helicopter.

“Sandia has a proud history of recruiting, hiring and retaining veterans because of the unique values and skills we bring to the workplace,” Chalas said. “A common commitment to the defense of and love of our county is what binds us.”

Image of Veterans2023_4_1000x667
CELEBRATING COMMITMENT — Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas, garrison commander of the U.S. Army Parks Reserve Forces Training Area at Camp Parks, delivered the keynote address during the Veterans Day celebration at Sandia’s California site Nov. 9. (Photo by Randy Wong)

Recent articles by Valerie Alba and Trina West