COLUMBIA, S.C. - October was recognized as a time to honor the diversity of the workforce, particularly highlighting those who serve and have disabilities.
The South Carolina National Guard has an employee who is the welcoming voice and face of visitors to the Adjutant General's building in Columbia, South Carolina. Many aren't even aware as she works behind her large desk answering calls and providing direction to guests, that she arrives to work each morning in her pink wheelchair.
"I was born with spina bifida, but that does not stop me," said Renae Templeton, a communications specialist employee in the South Carolina Military Department. In addition to working with the security personnel and visitors, she also answers the main line to the headquarters building of the South Carolina National Guard.
"I love helping my Soldiers and Airmen," said Templeton, who has served in this role since 2009. "I love getting the morale calls from overseas and enjoy helping to connect service memebers from thousands of miles away to a family member who is awaiting a phone call."
As she travels around the three-story building, she stops to help whoever she can.
"Renae caters to everyone and never thinks twice about helping," said Jack Kotchish, an executive assistant in the command group who has known her since she was first hired. "Everybody who comes through the front doors enjoys getting her daily greeting, witty discussions and laughter."
"On my first day working here, I was introduced to Jack who told me to never hesitate to call if I needed any help. Here is it eight years later and I'm still calling for help," she said jokingly.
Each October, the Department of Defense celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates the public about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of everyone's skills.
Templeton shared that during her years there, many Soldiers have come back from their deployments and came by the Adjutant General's headquarters building to meet her, shake her hand and thank her.
"I don't know what we'd do without Renae," added Kotchish. "On the occasions when she is out, it takes three or four of us to fill in and handle all of the incoming calls. I don't know how she does it by herself."