By Fonda Bock, USARECNovember 21, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Nov. 15, 2013) -- For five years now, 31-year-old Tony Garcia -- who has mild retardation, epilepsy and a speech impediment -- has been getting up at 6 a.m. four days a week to get to his job at the Fort Knox, Ky., PX by 7:30 a.m.
As a maintenance and custodial employee, he's responsible for cleaning and maintaining the restrooms, washing windows and mirrors, sweeping and vacuuming the carpets and floors, retrieving shopping carts from the parking lot and assisting customers with carrying their packages.
On Nov. 15, Garcia received an award from the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) for being selected as the Exchange's worldwide outstanding associate with a disability for 2013.
Garcia was selected because of his incredible work ethic and ability to overcome his physical problems, said Diana Culberson, vice president of the Exchange's Equal Opportunity Office (EEO).
"We recognize the value and talent that individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace." said Culberson. "Let us honor Mr. Garcia and our regional winners and their achievements in overcoming challenges at work and their daily lives. They are truly exceptional and set examples for all of us and give encouragement to their coworkers and staff."
Garcia's mom, Gloria Sherman, said this award speaks volumes about her son.
"This says he has done a lot and that he's proved to himself he can live in the real world and can fend for and provide for himself -- maybe not 100 percent, but that he can hold a job without constant supervision and someone watching over his shoulder."
Garcia's father, Todd Sherman, who is deputy director for Army Recruiting Command's recruiting operations, uses the word "Amazed" to describe how he feels about his son's accomplishments.
"As parents we are always proud of our children and everything they accomplish, but to be selected for this award for all of AAFES is amazing. Tony continues to show people every day that there is no limit on what he is capable of. In his eyes he does not have a disability; it's everyone else who sees a disability.
The recognition has boosted Garcia's self esteem. Gloria Sherman said her son now tackles new tasks every day with a new outlook.
"Before he would be hesitant and say, 'I don't know if I can do that.' But now he [approaches new challenges] with more confidence and will say, 'I got this, I can do it, let me try.'"
"It says I'm the best worker," said Garcia. "I love my job."
Marie Pittman, diversity specialist for AAFES, said the Exchange is committed to embracing diversity and creating an inclusive work environment where all associates are valued. More than 2 percent of AAFES employees have a disability.
Gloria adds, "I just want to make sure that everybody knows that just because you might have a disability, it doesn't mean you can't do anything. The sky is the limit for everybody, so no matter what your goal is -- go after it. Tony is living proof you can do whatever you set your mind to."