VIRGINIA BEACH — Lessons — where would we be without them? Where would I be without them? Throughout my life, I have found that lessons come from many places and are learned from many different experiences.
I went into the military a year after high school. It was life changing, but it also taught me so much about myself. My time with the Marines taught me about setting goals, training to be my best and being proud of who I am and what I represent. The uniform was something to be proud of. It represents so much to the world and to me.
As a Marine, you stand for honor, courage and commitment – a mentality that never leaves you. Since day one of boot camp, I was told to stand tall, keep my hair neat and pulled back and take care of the uniform I wore.
I left the Marine Corps in 2014 and joined the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office with the hope of continuing my organizational pride. Different organizations bring different lessons, but something that has never changed for me was the pride for my uniform. I do my best to look my best — no matter if I have an Eagle, Globe and Anchor on my chest or my sheriff’s deputy badge over my heart.
My new uniform, just like my old one, stands for what is important in my life: integrity, loyalty and community excellence. To me, this uniform means I am the first to offer a helping hand, I am trusted by my community and I have compassion for others. This uniform may mean something different to every deputy who wears it, but, no matter what, it should be worn with pride.
As a Hispanic female, it is uncommon to be able to wear not one, but two uniforms throughout my life that have such a spotlight in society. I love to organize days where my fellow deputies and I can go to schools in our area to sit and read with different grade levels or just simply eat lunch. There is no greater joy than the smile on a child’s face when they see their heroes in everyday life.
All too often, our children experience the negatives in life. Knowing that you can make a difference with such a simple gesture is one of the best things I have experienced in this job.
This job and this uniform symbolize so much more than just someone who enforces the law. It means I have someone looking up to me, someone watching my every move. It is so important to set that example for our younger generation, to show them it is alright to stand out.
Wearing this uniform makes me proud of who I am today, and I have my time in the Marine Corps to thank for that.
Without the Marines, I would not be who I am today.
Vela serves in the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office. She recently earned the Deputy Sheriff of the Year Award from American Legion Princess Anne Post 113 for exemplifying leadership and working with elementary school students.
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