When families of a deceased Veteran start planning burials at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia, one of the program support assistants they may meet is a Veteran who chose to work for VA to serve fellow Veterans.
Damion Jacobs enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1993. His assignments included Camp Pendleton, California, where he deployed three times, including to shut down humanitarian operations in Mogadishu, Somalia. Jacobs also spent a year protecting the fence line at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an instructor at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, and deployed to Iraq as an augmentee for the initial invasion in 2003.
After his instructor assignment, Jacobs went back to Camp Pendleton, where he deployed twice. During his second deployment in 2006, an improvised explosive device detonated near Jacobs. He lost his leg below the knee.
Jacobs spent a year and a half of recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. After that, Jacobs—who received a Purple Heart and learned to walk using a prosthetic—moved to Marine Corps Base Quantico. He later served on Capitol Hill for a prestigious Congressional Fellowship Program. He finished out his career in 2013 the Pentagon.
Joining National Cemetery Administration
Following retirement, Jacobs walked into Quantico National Cemetery in 2016 and had a general question about the hiring process. Before he could leave, the volunteer on duty asked Jacobs to serve Veterans as a volunteer. He did for a year and a half. Once a position opened up, Jacobs applied and joined the team.
“When you end up retiring from the Marine Corps or any branch of military service, you still want to find a way where you can continue to serve, where you can serve fellow Veterans,” Jacobs said. “For me, that was a big impact of what I wanted to do seeking follow-on employment.”
Jacobs said that decision has led him to a job he has found extremely gratifying.
“While you’re in the military, you know about cemeteries, but you don’t really know the ins and outs of what they do and what they provide,” Jacobs said. “Seeing how the staff operates, the rapport they have with the customers or the families that come in, their interactions with one another working in a small team environment is what drew me to seek future employment with the National Cemetery Administration.”
Jacobs’ daily duties include preparing packets for families of fallen. He also ensures monuments correctly honor Veterans and works with funeral homes and next of kin on services. During services, he leads processions and works with field crews to arrange escort to a final resting place.
“I love it every day,” Jacobs said. “Just being able to interact with the families and to thank their families and let them know the service that their loved ones provided was not just for the benefit of our Nation as a whole, but was for the world.”
The director for Quantico and Alexandria National Cemeteries said he sees first hand Jacobs’ dedication to Veterans.
“Damion is a leader and we are blessed to have him at Quantico National Cemetery,” said James Sanders. “I know there are many government jobs in our area that he qualifies for. He chooses to be here because his heart is in continuing to serve our nation and Veterans.”
Employees need to maintain composure to help families through the grieving process. However, Jacobs said there have been multiple instances he has found himself emotional at the Veteran stories. One internment involved a woman reading about her father, a Marine World War II Veteran who fought on Iwo Jima.
“As she sat there and was continuing on reading a note her father had written, he had identified that he was going to be up there guarding the streets of Heaven, just like any other Marine,” Jacobs said. “That one did bring a little bit of a tear. You try not to get too attached to what’s being said at the services, but that one there, as you’re listening to how she was portraying her father, it just made you want to have a connection with the family.”