Melissa Garcia is a Public Information Officer for the Houston Field Division. She has been with ATF for 14 years, also serving as an industry operations investigator and as a program manager for both the Office of Field Operations and the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs. She was inspired to join the bureau after speaking with an ATF agent and researching all that the agency offers.
Garcia’s heritage includes a mixture of Spanish, Mexican and German roots. She explains that her grandmother, who she affectionally refers to as “gammy,” was just like the ideal Mexican grandmother one might see in movies. Garcia believes her grandmother was the glue that held her family together – and the delicious food she made was always a hit. Growing up with her grandmother’s influence made Garcia realize the importance of family and the true meaning of loyalty; something she hopes to pass on to her own daughter. She still follows one of her favorite cultural traditions, one that she didn’t realize she would appreciate much as an adult – going to church every Sunday as a family.
Surrounded by a hard-working family, Garcia grew up with the core values of integrity, honest, and responsibility. Hard work requires sacrifice for different levels of social status – seeing this allowed her to understand how dedication and faith can help you excel beyond your dreams. After being hired by ATF, Garcia experienced and practiced the values that her culture instilled in her, shaping her into the person she is today.
Increasing Diversity in Law Enforcement
Garcia believes it is important for Latinos to join federal law enforcement not only to eliminate racial bias and racism, but to build trust with Hispanic communities. She knows agencies benefit from diversity in the workplace thanks to “outside the box” perspectives. She states, “If everyone grew up in the same setting with the same lifestyle, we wouldn’t be able to effectively conduct investigations, inspections or interviews.”
Her advice to Latinos interested in joining ATF is to be aware of just how much you bring to the table. Garcia knows that people with similar backgrounds to her might grow up thinking that their differences make them weak. In reality, their differences are their greatest strengths. She encourages them to lean into the gifts that their unique life experiences and identities have provided them.
Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is important to Garcia because it’s a dedicated time to recognize Hispanic and Latino people all over the world. She believes it’s important to understand that there are so many ethnicities that make up different places and communities – that’s what makes societies unique! Celebrating Hispanic heritage and recognizing diverse ethnicities and cultures reminds us that we are all together in this world.