Local DAV official honored at 2017 national conference
A local Disabled American Veterans official received national recognition this weekend.
Stephen Ezelle, the Veterans’ Outreach Program specialist for Pike, Garland, Hot Spring and Montgomery counties, received the DAV’s 2017 Outreach Program Specialist of the Year award at the organization’s national conference in New Orleans.
Ezelle, who received the Arkansas Veterans Representative of the Year award in June, said Thursday the recognition was unexpected.
“All I was doing was just doing my job, and both of these things just kind of backto-back fell in my lap,” Ezelle said. “I was just very excited.”
Ezelle began his military service as a petty officer 3rd Class in the U.S. Navy in 1979. He initially served at the Pentagon as a flag staffer in submarine warfare, later moving to Jacksonville, Fla., and then Italy in his time of enlistment. He was honorably discharged from the military in 1983.
“You can’t get the job unless you’re a vet,” Ezelle said of his current occupation.
Following his time in the military, Ezelle spent 30 years working in the banking and hospitality industries in Florida and Hot Springs. He began working with veterans’ services in 2013.
Ezelle started as a local veterans’ employment representative for Arkansas, and quickly moved over to his current position of disabled veteran outreach specialist for the four counties. His job duties include assisting local disabled veterans in a variety of areas,
including transitioning back to civilian life, involvement in the DAV’s suicide prevention program and working in the local veterans’ treatment court.
“I do what I can to help veterans, from the littlest things to the greatest things,” Ezelle said.
Ezelle learned he would receive his award on May 31. In the letter that notified him of his award, DAV National Commander David W. Riley called Ezelle “a true friend and advocate for veterans and their families.”
“I never even knew that this award even existed, let alone the state award existed,” Ezelle said.
Ezelle listed a number of people, including his wife and fellow workers in the local DAV, who were instrumental in his job performance. He also cited the creativity he brings to the position and letters of recommendation from Garland County District Court Judge Judge Meredith Switzer Rebsamen and State Sen. Alan Clark, R-District 13, of Lonsdale, as factors in his receiving the award.
“I’m extremely humbled over being a recipient of it,” he said.
Ezelle said he doesn’t plan to change his approach to his work now that he’s received the award, but he would consider taking other opportunities within the realm of veterans’ services if they come his way.
“I would love, one day, to be a staffer on the national DAV level,” he said. “Someday it may happen. I don’t know, but it’s something I can put my eye on.”
As for the conference in New Orleans, he was going with a mixture of excitement, humility and appreciation.
“This is the pinnacle of my life right now,” he said.
RECOGNITION: Stephen Ezelle, Disabled American Veterans’ local outreach program specialist, who recently received two DAV awards, is interviewed Thursday before leaving for New Orleans to receive the 2017 Outreach Program Specialist of the Year award at the DAV’s national conference.