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Somos Uno: Bay Pines VA Veterans, Staff Champion Equity for All

Two men, wearing business casual attire, stand back to back in a spacious courtyard.  They both have a pleasant look on their face.
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program Manager, Israel Baez II (left) and Bay Pines VA's EEO Specialist Alexander Bestard (right) are both retired Veterans. They are part of a four-man team whose military service, and cultural heritage, allow them to support staff as VA continues working toward Inclusion, Diversity, Education and Access, for all.

Israel Baez II, Alexander Bestard, Jovany Morales-Estada, and Obed Muniz lead the Bay Pines VA’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) mission.

As part of VA’s ongoing support of Inclusion, Diversity, Education and Access, this team, and their heritage serves as important variables to the organization’s responsibilities to staff. 

Israel Baez II, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Veteran, retired

“My journey of 17 ½ years with the U.S. military began right out of high school in 1991, and took several detours, before ending in 2013,” the EEO program manager shared. “I come from a family of Veterans dating back to at least World War II, so I view my job as a blessing, because my team supports the workforce who provides world-class service to those who served.”

The New Jersey native started his military career as a cavalry scout and went on to serve in four other military occupational specialties, in both the National Guard and on active duty, before leaving the service as an infantry officer. When Baez returned from his deployment in support of Operation Iraqi freedom, he was stationed at Fort Cavazos, formerly known as Fort Hood, Texas, and it was there that he assumed the collateral duty of an equal opportunity leader.

“When I was growing up, I assumed most places were as racially and culturally diverse as the South Jersey/Philly area. Getting out into the world was eye-opening and allowed me to understand diversity and inclusion (D&I), even if I didn’t know how to formally conceptualize it,” Baez continued.  “When I ended my military service, I saw EEO as a potential career field worth consideration. I have done it ever since and never looked back.”

Over time, Baez’s appreciation for equal opportunity has deepened and he is proud to lead a team that consistently works to promote D&I in ways that will resonate with the staff, and surrounding communities, who benefit from their services.

Alexander Bestard, U.S. Air Force Veteran, retired

“I chose to work at the VA because being here invokes a special feeling within me,” the former medical laboratory technologist shared. “When I was discharged from the Air Force, I was left with a void in my soul. As a result, I chose to pursue a career that allowed me to continue to work alongside, as well as serve, Veterans.”

A primary component of cultivating an equitable workplace is ensuring that there are opportunities for education. Throughout the year, Bestard joins his team in organizing several events that celebrate federally recognized heritage months. The commemoration of these observances allows staff to gain a deeper understanding of each other.

“I absolutely feel like my job translates to my daily life,” Bestard shared. “I believe the work enriches my life and reinforces my morals, ability to resolve conflicts, my understanding, and my continued want to be fair and equitable.”

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System joins the nation in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. This is the first half of a two-part series that highlights the staff who help make our mission of serving those who served, a reality.

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