When USDA recognized the men and women who served our country at the annual USDA Veterans Day Observance, it was a special day for me. That’s because the observance, held Oct. 27, 2016, was my first as a USDA employee since returning from a Navy individual augmentee deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan in December of 2015.
It has been more than a year since I answered the call to mobilize. Saying goodbye to your family and friends is never easy. Leaving my job at USDA was not easy, either. But I have no regrets answering that call to duty because for me-- and for my fellow USDA employees who are still serving in the reserve or guard -- we have great support from family, friends, and coworkers.
For those who serve, while we accept the “thank you for your service and sacrifice,” for me, it has always been difficult to reply because all I did was my job. And while serving in Kabul, I realized that the folks back home are serving our great country too. At Camp Resolute Support, we had a flagpole where we raised flags to commemorate a special event. I personally had flown a flag for my favorite basketball, football, and baseball team, then for my mom, sister and brother, and two very special flags were flown for my son and daughter’s birthdays. My last flag was on Sept. 11, 2015 on behalf of all USDA employees who answered the “call to duty.” We raised that flag for all the men and women at USDA who kept on serving back home.
The stresses of pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment were greatly reduced by my coworkers at USDA. So I would like to thank the Office of Human Resource and Management, my team and colleagues, and especially the employee resource group, USDA Veterans Employees Organization (VEO) for helping me to navigate the different benefits and entitlement. I encourage everyone at USDA, our veterans, and especially our Guard and Reserve member at USDA to be a part of the USDA VEO, because together we can thank our veterans every day of the year.
Fred Cheng currently serves in the US Navy Reserve as the Executive Officer for Defense Intelligence Agency HQ 1482 and he is with the USDA OHRM-Diversity, Recruitment, and Work/Life Division. Commander Fred Cheng served at Camp Resolute Support, Kabul, Afghanistan as the CJ33 Current Operations Officer from April 2015 to November 2015.