Shelia Gray never thought she would answer the call to serve her country overseas. But the 18-year HUD veteran and grandmother will shortly be on her way to Iraq for a one-year detail as a volunteer and becomes the first civilian HUD employee to participate in a new State Department program designed to help Iraq in its reconstruction efforts.
Gray, an operations specialist in the Fort Worth Regional Office, was one of more than 400 HUD employees who showed their interest by participating in a State Department briefing for duty in Iraq. The soft-spoken mother of three became interested in the detail after receiving an all-employee message announcing the opportunity.
"That got my curiosity up, and I wondered what it would be like to work overseas," explained Gray. "Ultimately I volunteered because I see this as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve my country like my children," said Gray, the mother of two Air Force officers.
"The initial response to the detail was simply overwhelming," said Dawn Petchell, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration. "If you ever wanted to measure the heart and commitment to service of HUD's employees, this was the opportunity and the response was admirable."
Gray's family, including her husband and 89-year old mother fully support of her volunteerism yet are slightly bemused by her adventurous streak.
"The older you and Dad get, the more unpredictable you get," said Lieutenant Jana Mae Davis, Gray's daughter. "We never know what you are going to do next!" Gray's son is Captain Jamie Paul Gray, a pilot now stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington, jokingly asked her "if she had been reading the newspapers lately?"
Gray added, "My family's full support and the Department's guarantee that I could return to HUD, helped me to make my decision. "I love my job at HUD and I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people. I'm grateful to the Department for the opportunity to serve my country, in whatever capacity I can."
"We are extremely proud that Shelia Gray will be the first to represent HUD," said Cynthia Leon, Regional Director. "she is a stellar employee and person and we are truly sending our best to help those working hard to secure democracy in Iraq."
For further information regarding Iraq employment opportunities,contact General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration Dawn Petchell by e-mail: Dawn_M._Petchell@hud.gov