Longtime Paralyzed Veterans of America employee Blake Ortner received his first star in a promotion ceremony on June 16, 2013, when he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the Virginia National Guard.
(L to R) Major General Daniel Long, Jr., Adjutant General of the Virginia Army National Guard, Brigadier General Blake Ortner, Kristen Ortner (wife), daughter Erica, son Alex, father-in-law David Varrelman
Ortner commissioned as an infantry officer through the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1983 and served in the 2-60th Infantry Battallion, 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Wash., and in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
Ortner left active duty service in 1987, and in 1989 joined the Virginia Army National Guard. Since 9/11, he has deployed four times to Bosnia-Herzegovinia (2001), Iraq (2007) and Afghanistan (2004 and 2011). Ortner is the first Virginia Guardsman since the Civil War to command both a battalion and a brigade in combat.
Upon the promotion to Brigadier General, Ortner has been assigned as the Land Component Commander for the Virginia Army National Guard.
For more than 20 years, Ortner has balanced his service in the Virginia National Guard with his tireless work at Paralyzed Veterans of America, including his current role as senior associate legislative director. Ornter has served the majority of his tenure at Paralyzed Veterans in the Government Relations Department.
Carl Blake, national legislative director at Paralyzed Veterans of America, on Tuesday praised Ortner’s promotion as well deserved and well earned. He also praised Ortner’s work at Paralyzed Veterans as “indispensible,” adding that he has been a major player in several pieces of legislation that has been enacted over the years to help veterans.
“Ortner epitomizes service given his longtime service to the Army National Guard and to Paralyzed Veterans,” Blake said. “Not only does he work with active duty members of the military now, he also works in a unique capacity to benefit veterans.”
Ortner also has received numerous awards for his distinguished military service, including the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Combat Action Badge, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, Legion of Merit, four Bronze Stars, two Meritorious Service Medals, a Joint Service Commendation Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, Army Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Ortner also holds a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. He currently resides in Stafford, VA, with his wife Kristen, daughter Erika, son Alexander and father-in-law David Varrelman.
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Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.