By Kris Vicencio
Five years in the Air Force, three in the Air Force Reserves, law school, and a legal career in public interest shaped my understanding of service and how it influences me today.
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to do something in the community, but I didn’t have the motivation or self-discipline to get there. Being honest with myself, I sought recognition and positions of authority for my own sake, without having earned it. So, as a 25-year-old college dropout with no direction in life, I joined the Air Force just to shake up my life a bit. That laid the foundation for how service would guide my life; an ideal that challenges me to force myself to keep learning.
That strong foundation pushed me to continue in public service after leaving the military. After the military, I worked for almost a year at a non-profit law firm providing pro-bono representation to low-income survivors of domestic violence before taking my current job as a prosecutor. All of which continued to shape what service has taught me and how it influences me.
This isn’t the only approach to service, but just a little of what I learned so far:
- Service is not self-serving – My original approach was to attain prestige and recognition, but I learned that was an empty approach to service. In my experience, there can be greater fulfilment seeing those around you succeed and receive recognition, especially those I am responsible for or charged to educate.
- Service does not mean self-sacrifice – There must be a balance. Anything worth doing requires some sacrifice, of course. But if I don’t take care of myself, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, how can I serve others?
- Service requires an open mind – My truth and my experience are not the only truths. To truly serve others, we must listen to others, and consider their different upbringing, experiences and world views. Most importantly, we have to respect those views. That does not mean we compromise our own values or morals, accept those views as our own or to accept assertions unsupported by facts. But it’s important to consider another’s circumstances and viewpoints to provide the service that is needed.
Those lessons guide my current career and how I practice the law. As a prosecutor, my job is not to “win” cases, but to serve my community and fight for justice for everyone that enters the criminal system. Not only protecting the rights of crime victims, but also the rights of my community and defendants as well. That also, means saying no at work sometimes, taking time for self-care, and spending time with my family and in the community, to recharge and remind myself why I serve.
Tech. Sgt. Kris Vicencio, U.S. Air Force was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland, and served as a 1N271C on active duty from 2010 – 2015, with follow-on service in the U.S. Air Force Reserves from 2015 – 2018. He continues to serve his community as an Assistant State’s Attorney for the Office of the State’s Attorney, Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
This story is a part of our series, Inspiring Stories of Service.