TSA Administrator David Pekoske honored and thanked the men and women who served in the military at TSA’s Veterans Day ceremony at agency headquarters in Springfield, Virginia. Pekoske and keynote speaker Mississippi Federal Security Director Kim D. Jackson celebrated and paid tribute to those who sacrificed for our country and emphasized that veterans, who make up nearly a fifth of TSA’s workforce, are a great match for TSA.
The event kicked off with TSA’s Washington Dulles International Airport Honor Guard presenting the ceremonial colors and flags while standing at attention. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) TSA Officer Marcus Canty sang a rousing rendition of the national anthem.
Master of ceremonies Ron Mitchener, a supervisory officer from BWI, thanked members of all six U.S. armed forces for their service. He then described how Veterans Day got started. Initially known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day was established to honor the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918 that signaled the end of World War I.
In front of a backdrop of U.S., Department of Homeland Security, TSA, and military service flags, Pekoske thanked all veterans for their service and commitment to our country. He also thanked the veterans who now work for TSA for protecting the nation's transportation systems and keeping American travelers safe and secure.
Pekoske said it makes a lot of sense that veterans are a good fit at TSA, because TSA’s core values of integrity, respect and commitment are similar to those of the U.S. armed forces. He said the 11,000 veterans working for TSA bring service, patriotism and love of country as well as pertinent skills and experience to the agency.
Pekoske read quotes from veterans who now work for TSA, including Missoula Montana Airport Supervisory Officer Rich Damron, who joined the agency when it was created after 9/11.
“Members of the military are ideal hires for TSA, because they have relevant experience, attention to detail, flexibility, and are good at dealing with change,” Damron said. “My fellow Transportation Security Officers are great people. We joined TSA for the same reason many people also join the military: To keep our country safe.”
Monster and Military.com recently named TSA one of the 10 best employers that hire veterans. The list highlights veteran-friendly employers with strong track records of hiring and retaining veterans and military families. It also mentions some of TSA’s veteran support services, including the Employee Resource Group for veterans and families, veteran mentorship program and partnerships with veteran and military family organizations. TSA retained 85% of the veterans who joined the agency a year ago, a figure Pekoske noted was impressive.
Pekoske also commended TSA frontline employees who assist with Honor Flights, which bring World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans from around the country to Washington, D.C to visit the sites and memorials dedicated to them. Honor Flights recently resumed after a long pause during the pandemic.
For these flights, TSA honor guards present the colors, an officer often sings the national anthem, and officers salute the veterans as they help them through security. The admiration and respect officers give to veterans sometimes moves them to tears.
Jackson, who joined TSA following a 33-year military career with the Mississippi Army National Guard, began his speech by telling the audience, “I’m proud to be among the ranks of the brave men and women who served our country by protecting its freedom and democracy.”
“The Army gave me direction, training and skills,” said Jackson, who retired as a brigadier general. “I gave the Army my loyalty, duty and determination.”
As a young Black man from Mississippi, Jackson said he faced discrimination at times and joining the military was a great equalizer. “I learned to value myself and my skills, never to underestimate myself, and never to put myself above or below anyone else,” he said.
Jackson started his TSA career as a human resources specialist at Mississippi’s Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport before becoming the state’s federal security director in 2019. Now, he is a member of TSA’s Inclusion Action Committee and said he is striving to increase the agency’s diversity and inclusion to make sure “TSA is a fair and equitable organization.” TSA is making strides in diversity, said Jackson, but has room for improvement.
Pekoske called Jackson an “exemplary leader at TSA,” and Jackson echoed the Administrator in saying veterans are a great fit for TSA.
“I’m proud to salute those who served in the armed forces and now serve with TSA,” Jackson said. “What a privilege it is to have another opportunity to serve and protect people, commerce and the community.”
You can watch the Veterans Day ceremony on TSA’s YouTube page.