WASHINGTON – Christopher Lee Castle joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2008, eager to give back to the military community after having served in the Marine Corps.
It was the height of the Great Recession, and Christopher’s job as a loan specialist in the Veterans Benefits Administration meant he was soon counseling veterans and family members who were going through foreclosures on their VA guaranteed home loans and facing other economic hardships.
Christopher recalls one instance in which the wife of a soldier who was serving in Iraq called him in a panic, worried that she was going to lose their home while he was overseas.
“The lady was on the phone and literally in tears, kids in the background, worried that while her husband is off fighting for our freedoms that she’s going to screw things up. She was so distraught over this. So at times you become a social worker,” he says.
Christopher shares his story in the latest documentary produced by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents Christopher and more than 210,000 other bargaining unit employees throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs. The documentary series is part of AFGE’s year-long campaign, “I Am AFGE,” to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them every day.
Veterans like Christopher make up one-quarter of the federal workforce. In addition to his job at the VA, Christopher is vice president of AFGE Local 1557 outside Denver.
“I tend to get choked up when I see or hear of situations where a veteran or the family of a veteran is overlooked or they fall through the cracks,” Christopher says. “I believe that part of my function, both as a federal government employee and as an AFGE officer of my local union, is to represent those people and to give back to them the same kind of energy and commitment that their son or daughter did or that they did.”
Christopher’s story is one of 15 short-form documentaries being released by AFGE every three weeks through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees who carry out important work across the country.
All of the videos are being posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also is being 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 more than 210,000 employees throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs who ensure our veterans receive the highest quality healthcare, all the benefits they have earned, and a proper resting place at the end of their lives,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
“They and all other government employees have dedicated their careers to serving the public. This campaign is our way of thanking them for their service and reminding Americans of the valuable work they do.”