Lo­cal DAV of­fi­cial hon­ored at 2017 na­tional con­fer­ence

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - MAX BRYAN

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.

The Sen­tinel-Record/Max Bryan

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.

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