This is the first entry in our blog series with veteran recruiter and military mom Linda Ortiz, our colleague from the IRS Recruitment Office and today’s guest blogger.
As patriotic holidays come and go annually – Veterans Day, Memorial Day and now the Fourth of July – I gaze up and down my street, hoping all the neighbors will join us in proudly displaying the American flag in their front yards. I even catch myself looking for flags around town as I drive to the store or work, looking for affirmation of support from the public for all that has been given by our fallen heroes, veterans, wounded warriors, and active military.
Tears fill my eyes as I remember the three year old boy who sat in a sandbox playing with his toy soldiers. He looked up at me with such excitement as he buried the little figures in the sand and built barricades with rocks. I smile when I think of the pride that same boy had as a member of his high school ROTC and later as an 18-year old soldier completing boot camp in Kentucky’s Fort Knox. Indeed, I believe he fulfilled his destiny in becoming a soldier.
Currently in Afghanistan, my son, Staff Sergeant Ernesto Ortiz, proudly serves in the U.S. Army. His military career spans 11 years so far, and he is on his third deployment. His wife and two sons, who are living in Germany, anxiously await his return. I pray for his safety daily, hoping his deployment ends sooner than the expected 9 to 12 month period.
I have been married for 33 years to my high school sweetheart. I have two sons — Jerry, who served four years in the Marines, and Ernie, who is currently in the Army. I live by words such as commitment, honor and pride. Needless to say, I have a very special place in my heart for our military members, as well as their families.
As a federal employee, I have worked for the IRS for 25 years. I have worked in various positions including clerical, tax examiner, front-line manager and department manager. In 2009, my director asked me to join him for a visit to Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas. That’s the day my life changed.
My director’s hope was for the IRS to partner with Ft. Hood in a pilot program providing non-paid intern positions for wounded warriors in the Warrior Transition Unit. He invited me because he knew I had a son in the Army – he thought maybe a soldier’s mom could reach them in a way he couldn’t.
I addressed a room of wounded soldiers, explaining to them that my son was in Afghanistan. As a mom, I worry about what would happen if he’s injured and has to change his career. My son joined the Army at 18 years old — military life is all he knows.
The soldiers started nodding as I explained the pilot program and how it would help them gain work skills and training, all while recuperating from their injuries. In November 2009, ten proud warrior interns entered the Austin IRS office for their first day of work.
In part two of this blog series, Linda discusses her ongoing role in – and the success of – the IRS Wounded Warrior Program.
Recruitment 411 is the official blog of the IRS Recruitment Office.