JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2019) Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad,  commander, Naval Education and Training Command, participates in a 2019 Navy National Disability Employment Awareness Month program hosted by Fleet Readiness Center Southeast at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Cozard was the keynote speaker at the event titled, “Breaking Barriers by Overcoming Unexpected Obstacles.”

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast hosts National Disability Employment Awareness Month event

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast was the site of Naval Air Systems Command’s Equal Employment Opportunity event. The presentation was held at the River Cove Conference Center located on Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Sept. 30.

Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the keynote speaker, was introduced by Rear Adm. Mike Zarkowski at the event titled, “Breaking Barriers by Overcoming Unexpected Obstacles.” 

Zarkowski opened as seats filled and audience members sat attentively awaiting the program’s commencement. He stressed the importance of frequently addressing Equal Employment Opportunities and his admiration for Cozad. 

“Kyle's story is remarkable,” said Zarkowski. “Despite being faced with great adversities, I am grateful that he never gave up on the Navy and consequently the Navy never gave up on this amazing leader.”

Only a few minutes into Cozad’s speech, and it’s easy to see that Zarkowski is exact in his observations. 

After 34 years of Naval service, Cozad fell in his home – a “freak accident” that would change his life forever. 

“I probably have enough screws in my back to start a small Home Depot hardware store,” Cozad said. “Two broken vertebrae, T12 down to L2— so really the lower portion of my body,” he said. “The surgeon told my wife, Amy, that I would never get out of a wheelchair again. Period.” 

The diverse group, some disabled and some not, listened intently to a speech that Cozad never imagined he’d give.

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do, demonstrate to them what you can do,” he said. “Thank you all for embracing the culture of inclusion.”

His reluctance to accept the status quo beautifully highlighted the depth of contribution provided by America’s disabled workforce. 

He travels, stands, takes steps, plays sports and works full-time. He doesn’t take a backseat to life — he’s hungry to achieve more by breaking barriers and encouraging others to do the same. 

America's diversity has always been one of the nation's greatest strengths. The DoD recognizes its vital role in advancing disability awareness in the workplace, and as the nation's largest employer, employs thousands of workers with disabilities.

“We are very fortunate to have been able to host such an important event emphasizing a highly valued segment of FRCSE’s workforce,” said Col. Fred Schenk, FRCSE’s Commanding Officer. “Events like these reaffirm our commitment to hiring and supporting employees with disabilities while also recognizing their many contributions to our organization.” 

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is held each October to raise awareness and address issues regarding disability employment, and to celebration the countless contributions of America’s disabled workers.

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