“When I realized I had become a target in the USPS I knew that it was time to dance… It was time to fight.”
“In my experience with the agency, they have always needed persistent persuasion, through the grievance process and legal action, to do what was ethical and what was right.”
- Garland D. Lewis, Sr.
Garland D. Lewis, Sr. is a strong, intensely focused, determined human being. He’s the kind of man you would want fighting by your side in a war – and you’d pray that you could fight for him half as strong as you knew he would fight for you. He’s the kind of man who has a strong sense of duty and responsibility to others. He’s the kind of man who believes that if he does things by the book and fulfills his obligations, everything will work out fine and he will be justly rewarded in the end. He’s the kind of person who believes in the goodness of his country and providing for his family through honesty, integrity and hard work.
As a young veteran returning from the war in Vietnam, Garland brought his aspirations for a better life and his personal sense of character and integrity to his first position at the United States Postal Service in Denver, Colorado in May 1980, beginning what would become a 33-year career. But Garland’s plan was undermined by the realities of the institutional dysfunctions and unusual stress of the U.S. Postal Service work environment. His career path took him through a maze of harsh retributions, intimidation, fear and threats – but Garland has an abiding belief in justice, so he fought back. In the end he needed a civil attorney, a team of criminal attorneys, a bail bondsman, an employment specialist, the Postal Workers Union, marriage counseling, group therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous and his buddies at the gym to maintain his job and well-being.
Garland also came to understand why the idea of “Going Postal” has become a syndrome associated with the U.S. Postal Service and is more than just a cliché. At a time when mass shootings are on the increase, Garland’s remarkable story shines a light on our society as a whole – with all its pressures, social conflicts and emotional landmines – and is relevant to the myriad of questions that arise when so many people seem to be “going postal.”
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More than six hundred thousand people work for the US Postal Service. Many of these employees are among the nine million Vietnam-era veterans who returned to a nation indifferent, or even openly hostile, to their experiences.
Garland D. Lewis Sr. was one of these veterans. After being honorably discharged from the Navy, he returned to Denver, Colorado, proud of his service. After struggling to find gainful employment, it appeared that no one else was until he achieved the highest test score in his class and was offered a position with the USPS in 1980.
Garland found that, despite a toxic culture and adverse conditions, the Postal Service was one of the few organizations offering a middle-class lifestyle to African Americans and a chance at the American dream for veterans. His plan was to put the time in, stay focused on his duties and retire. He soon realized how unrealistic demands and abusive management practices could push employees to their limits, leading to tragedy.
As Garland examines the incidents that led to the coining of the phrase “going postal,” he doesn’t focus on the who of the situation but the why. Why so many mental breakdowns in the USPS? What kind of culture fostered frustration and anger? Garland’s look at “going postal” is an examination of the USPS and American culture.