A Veteran’s View: Supporting Our Nation's Military

By Leslie Nelson 05/04/2022
May Military Month Leslie Nelson

In recognition of Military Appreciation Month, Army veteran and SourceAmerica® employee Leslie Nelson has a personal message to share about how people with disabilities, the nonprofit network, and the AbilityOne® Program support our nation’s military – now and all year long.

My name is Leslie Nelson, and I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania near the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The base closed in the 1990s due to Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations. Today the Defense Logistics Agency that supports the AbilityOne Program – one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities – through its various contracts operates its Troop Support command within 15 miles of the old shipyard.

As I child, I was not aware that my father was an Air Force veteran. In fact, we never really talked about the military until I enlisted in the Army in 1981. My active-duty assignments included Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Today, each of these military installations receives a myriad of services through the Program – ranging from grounds maintenance and commissary shelf stocking to mailroom operations and laundry service. After my honorable discharge in 1987, I transitioned to federal government service until 2002.

My husband, whom I met at Fort Hood, also served in multiple hardship and combat tours of duty to include Korea, and Kuwait and Iraq during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Coinciding with my husband’s deployment to Iraq in 2003, I had the pleasure of joining SourceAmerica. Except for my limited research during the interview process, little did I know that people with disabilities employed through AbilityOne-authorized providers manufacture the battle dress uniforms, chemical protective suits, coats, and a plethora of other garments and protective gear that my husband and I wore during our military service. More importantly, many items helped save my husband’s life as well as the lives of many others during combat support and operations. Upon his retirement in 2004, my husband received a U.S. flag and wore an Army dress uniform – both produced by people with disabilities. As a military spouse, the Army also presented me a certificate of appreciation in recognition of my support throughout his career.

It was not until the past five years that I learned more about my father’s military career when he served in Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Japan and Fort Meade, Maryland as a radio intercept operator. Last year, my family had the honor of laying him to rest at Washington Crossing National Cemetery with a U.S. flag draped over his casket and military honor guards sporting crisp Army dress uniforms – all produced by people with disabilities.

No career I have ever had has given me the satisfaction of knowing what I am a part of impacts so many lives – either directly or indirectly. I am profoundly grateful for the experience of being part of this great mission. As a veteran, I’m truly grateful for everything people with disabilities, the nonprofit network, and the AbilityOne Program do to support our nation’s military during Military Appreciation Month and all year long.

Leslie Nelson is Director, Regulatory, Oversight and Monitoring for SourceAmerica.