Veteran’s Perspective: Paying it Forward

By LCDR Jennifer Velasquez McCord, U.S. Navy Reserves

My name is Jennifer Velasquez McCord, and I am a first-generation American born to parents who migrated from Medellin, Colombia looking for the “American Dream”. At the age of six, I realized that I owed a lot to America for the opportunities it had afforded my family and me. I still remember traveling to Colombia and noticing the differences between my cousins’ lives and mine. From a very young age, I knew that I wanted to serve in the greatest military in the world because of how blessed I felt.

In 2009, I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned as a Naval Officer. While on active duty, I deployed on the USS CLEVELAND in support of the Pacific Partnership humanitarian civic assistance tour. During the deployment, I visited Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The deployment gave me a deeper appreciation for the United States. While in the Reserves, I deployed to Afghanistan and Djibouti in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE.

Afghanistan deployment. Kabul, 2015.

The Navy not only offered me an education but introduced me to my loving husband. I met him when I was deployed for the third time in Al Udeid Air Force Base, running operations for the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center (ECRC), responsible for deploying and returning sailors from the Central Command Area of Operation (CENTCOM AOR).

My time being deployed set my civilian career up for success. My first post-military role was in 2018 supporting the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was a place I was very familiar with because I had received my training from the “quiet professionals”.

Working for Lockheed Martin in support of JSOC’s J4 – Supply Directorate introduced me to the software development field, and more specifically, I fell in love with User Experience (UX) Design. Time again, mentoring, coaching, and sponsoring have helped me in my Navy career and it continues in my civilian career. I owe my success to many mentors and coaches, so I have the responsibility to pay it forward.

Afghanistan deployment. Bagram, July 4, 2014.

Many veterans feel the need to pay it forward, and I experienced that when I was transitioning from my last active-duty mobilization as a Reservist. I was encouraged to join LinkedIn and connect with other Latinos in fields that I was interested in. I scheduled multiple informational interviews to gain a better understanding of several roles in the corporate sector. I also learned that having someone walk my resume to a hiring manager had a better success rate in landing me an interview. Today I stay active on LinkedIn and assist other transitioning veterans with building connections that could lead them to their first post-military career. Please connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jvmccord09/

As a Latina Navy Reserve Officer, paying it forward is also important to me because I believe it will help with a certain military statistic. A 2019 Congressional Research report showed that Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the military making up about 18 percent of all active-duty military. However, it indicated we only make up 8% of the officer corps and 1 percent of general/flag officers. I have made it a personal goal to change this statistic by serving in the Association of Naval Service Officers (ANSO) and as a co-advisor for the U.S. Air Force Academy’s cadet Hispanic Heritage Club (HHC). Both organizations are focused on empowering LatinX/Hispanic descendant military personnel. With my involvement, I hope to continue to grow in the Navy Reserves and make a positive impact on our future leaders while becoming my ancestors’ wildest dreams.

 

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