Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Sen. Kaufman Recognizes Great Federal Employee, Vernon Hunter

February 25, 2010

   I have spoken before about the values that bind our Nation's public servants together. One of the most fundamental of these is sacrifice.

   We see this quality each day in the men and women who serve in uniform, both in the military and in law enforcement. They put themselves in harm's way to keep us all safe and protect our freedoms and way of life.

   Those who work in civilian roles also routinely take risks to their safety when performing their jobs, including the many Federal employees posted overseas and at our borders.

   This week, sadly, our Nation mourns the loss of a truly outstanding public servant who was killed last Thursday in the tragic attack against an office building in Austin, TX.

   Vernon Hunter was a 27-year veteran of the Internal Revenue Service and before that served for two decades in the U.S. Army.

   Earlier this month, I honored an IRS employee who made it possible for tens of millions to file their taxes electronically. At that time I spoke about how our IRS employees continually work hard to make it easier and less stressful for Americans to pay their taxes.

   Vernon was one of the great IRS managers who helped process tax filings and resolve issues for taxpayers. He had a reputation for being kind and full of life. He always wanted to help people solve their problems. His biography reads like a lesson in service and sacrifice.

   A native of Orangeburg, SC, Vernon enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from high school. He served two combat tours in Vietnam, at the same time facing discrimination at home when he was turned away from an all-White boarding house despite wearing the uniform. Vernon remained in the Army for 20 years, after which he worked for a short time in the private sector. However, as do many of our great Federal employees, he believed he had always been called to serve his Nation, and he returned to Federal employment nearly three decades ago when he began working for the IRS.

   Last week, Vernon lost his life when a small plane appeared out of the clear morning sky and struck his office Full Document: Congressional Record Full Textbuilding. The pilot also died in an act of apparent suicide, leaving behind a lengthy manifesto condemning corporations, the government, and singling out the IRS. Although 13 people were injured, Vernon was the only person killed in the violent explosion that ensued.

   Loyal, dedicated public servants such as Vernon bravely put themselves at risk each and every day through the mere act of doing their jobs. The attack in Austin was, of course, presaged by the Oklahoma City bombing and the anthrax attacks of 2001.

   Civilian Federal employees know there is always a risk. Many pass through metal detectors each morning coming to their offices. Mail is screened and emergency drills rehearsed. A Federal office building is a place of both dedicated work and unwitting risk in the name of service to country. Vernon, tragically, epitomized both.

   Vernon was 68 years old and is survived by his wife Valerie who also works for the IRS in the same office building, along with six children and stepchildren, seven grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. According to his son, Vernon was planning to retire from the IRS and go back to school. He wanted to teach children with special learning needs. Vernon was also an active member of the Greater Mountain Zion Baptist Church in Austin where he ushered and where his funeral will be held tomorrow.

   I hope my colleagues will join me in honoring Vernon Hunter and expressing our condolences to his family, friends, and those who worked with him at the IRS. He made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our Nation.

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