Those who serve their country with pride and wear their uniform with dignity are at times targets for their service. While it can often be verbal and written attacks at LAX it was something more sinister.
An American Federation of Government Employees member who serves as a Transportation Security Officer at Los Angeles International Airport and witnessed the aftermath of the fatal November 1 shooting there shares his story in the debut video for AFGE's documentary series, "I Am AFGE."
Victor Payes raced to the airport as soon as he heard the news that a gunman had opened fire at the airport, fatally shooting his coworker Gerardo Hernandez and wounding two other TSA officers and a civilian. Victor wasn't scheduled to report to work for another three hours but he knew he had to be there to support his colleagues and serve his country.
"The shooting had happened at 9 a.m. By four o'clock we were back to business," Victor says in the AFGE video, which is being released today. The shooting was a stark reminder to Victor and his colleagues of the reason why TSA was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: to protect the American public from harm. It also highlighted the threats that security officers face every day in doing their jobs.
"As time has gone on, unfortunately that threat has not just developed to the American public, it's developed as a threat to us as well," Victor says. "That serves as a reminder and a reinforcement to us that we're there for more than just a paycheck. We're there truly to provide a service to the public."
A son of immigrants, Victor Payes takes pride in his job because it allows him to provide for his family while giving back to America. "As an AFGE member, working at TSA, I know millions of people count on us to make sure they make it to their destination safely, and I'm proud to say that we do our job to make sure they get there safely," he says.
Victor's story is the first to be featured in AFGE's year-long campaign to increase the public's awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them each and every day. The centerpiece of the "I Am AFGE" campaign is 15 short-form documentaries that will be released every three weeks through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees like Payes who carry out important work across the country. The campaign kicked off last week with the release of a two-minute video that highlights the invaluable services federal employees deliver and explains how federal employees have much in common with the citizens they are sworn to serve. All of the videos will be posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also will be promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.
In addition, a special toll-free phone line has been established to record and share testimonials from federal employees or citizens who value the services that federal employees provide. The number to call is 1-844-IAM-AFGE (426-2343).
"AFGE is proud to represent the more than 45,000 TSA officers who protect our skies each and every day under demanding and sometimes dangerous circumstances," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. "They and all other federal employees are the most dedicated workers you could ever have the fortune of meeting. This campaign is our way of shining a light on them and reminding the public why the work that they do matters."