Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran James Martin Grace Jr., who served as a linguist manager and deployed to Afghanistan.
After graduating from University of Houston Law Center in 1992, James Martin Grace Jr. worked as a partner at the Baker Botts firm for a total of 14 years. While working as a lawyer, he began to consider one of his regrets, which was not having the opportunity to serve in the military. Grace heard about some of his friends completing a direct commission officer program, so he decided to attend Officer Candidate School. He jokes that this was his “midlife crisis.” He swore in the day before his 40th birthday. Grace completed two weeks of Direct Commission Officer School in Newport, Rhode Island, in 2008. He then travelled to San Diego to complete a second two-week course called the Naval Intelligence Officer Basic Course.
In 2011, Grace deployed as a Naval officer at an Air Force base in Afghanistan. His deployment situation was unique as he had to time it around the legal sessions he was in as an attorney. Additionally, he had to leave his wife Michelle, as well as his children Connor and Isabel. Grace remembers how supportive his wife was of his deployment since she knew how important it was to him to serve. In August 2011, he reported to Gulfport, Mississippi, where he completed another week-long Navy orientation as an individual augmentee before completing his final orientation in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He then deployed to Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, Grace worked as a linguist manager. He was responsible for over 1,000 linguists, interpreters and civilian intel contractors across Afghanistan. Though he was never in direct combat, he describes how rockets would frequently attack his camp. When he was not working, Grace would video chat with his friends and family back home, read or watch TV.
On May 17, 2012, Grace arrived home in Houston with three years remaining in the Navy. After returning home, he visited the various elementary schools that “adopted” him during his time overseas, including his daughter’s. Grace received letters and notes from the students and in return spoke to classes about his service. Looking back on his motives for serving, Grace recalls how he felt if he did not serve, he would not be doing his part for the country when it depends upon a volunteer force. In his own lighter words, “I’m doing a solid for the Navy, I suppose.”
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Lauren Draper
Editor: Cassidy Reid, Amanda Baker and Christopher Wilson
Fact checker: Jordan Gossett, Michael Macias
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr