ARLINGTON, Va., March 6, 2013 - Santa Gracia Ramirez, a PAE employee who was killed in 2007 while deployed to Afghanistan, was honored with the Defense of Freedom medal in a ceremony held last weekend in Gilbert, Ariz. Ramirez was killed by a suicide bomber while supporting the U.S. Department of State Corrections System Support Program, through which she mentored, trained and advised prison officials within the Afghan corrections system and advocated for the humane treatment of incarcerated Afghans, with a special focus on the rights of female prisoners. PAE hosted the medal presentation ceremony in Ramirez's home state, where she had previously served as a corrections officer and where her family currently resides. Representing the State Department was Deputy Assistant Secretary Carol Z. Perez, who stated that the mission Ramirez supported was critically important to both the security of the United States and to the people of Afghanistan.
"Her work developing the Afghan correction system directly contributed to the broader U.S.-Afghan partnership that sought stability after decades of upheaval," said Perez. "She made a lasting contribution, and the great progress the United States has made in the corrections sector in Afghanistan is a reflection of her tremendous efforts on behalf of the Afghan people." Adjutant General and Commanding General of the Arizona National Guard Major General Hugo E. Salazar acknowledged the importance of Ramirez's work within the U.S. mission in Afghanistan as he presented the Department of Defense medal.
"As a military officer, I think one of the things that the public tends to not realize is the extent of the sacrifices of civilian contractors overseas. The reverse of this medal is inscribed with the words "On Behalf of a Grateful Nation." These words cannot fully express the gratitude that we have for Santa's service and the sacrifice she made in support of the principles of freedom on which our country is founded."
"Today, we remember Santa as a patriot, called to serve her country and defend the rights and freedoms that we enjoy and that others deserve," said PAE CEO Michael Dignam. "The trainers and advisors who step forward for this cause do so knowing the inherent risks and challenges, as do all the contractors who have served in theater supporting key and vital missions in service to our country."
Ramirez's daughter, Soriah Prokopich, accepted the medal, which is the civilian equivalent of the military's Purple Heart.
I'm honored to accept this medal on behalf of my mother," said Prokopich. "After she passed, I found a letter addressed to me amongst her things. In it she described her job as the opportunity of a lifetime, and that she hoped it would make our family proud of her. Thank you to everyone here who made it possible for my mom to receive this medal."
PAE is a leading provider of global mission support services to the U.S. Government and its allied partners. For over fifty years, PAE has provided training, logistics, and operations and maintenance services to support stabilization, peacekeeping, national security and reconstruction missions around the world. PAE employs approximately 10,000 people in over 60 countries and is headquartered in Arlington, Va.