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Career of dedication includes Navy, Air Force and VA

At VA, a career of dedication to serving our nation’s heroes is a daily commitment.

The story of one woman’s journey from enlisted ranks to commissioned officer symbolizes an indomitable spirit and steadfast devotion to duty. 1st Lt. Nicole Jacocks is a beacon of inspiration for women and service members alike.

Jacocks and Major Samantha Dobler

Her journey began years ago when she enlisted in the Navy only months before the 9/11 in 2001. “When I wanted to join, I knew I wanted to be in a medical role. Instead, I had to join as a radioman with the promise of a corpsman position when one became available,” Jacocks shared.

Her recruiter made good on his promise and she was offered a medical position in the Navy at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “In the Navy, I experienced so much. For the first time, I witnessed patients returning home with amputations and injuries that I helped treat,” she recalled.

After witnessing the realities of war, Jacocks felt more determined to serve her country and fellow service members. “The military has been the best thing I could have ever done. It helped me solidify my passion for medicine and offered me a chance to hone my skills.”

Uncle first African American guard at Tomb of the Unknown Solider

After five years of service, Jacocks felt called to put her family’s needs first and ended her enlistment in the Navy as an E-4. She remained mindful of her family’s rich military legacy, marked by influential trailblazers. Raised by parents who both served in the Air Force, Jacocks grew up surrounded by examples of duty, sacrifice and courage. Her uncle, Fred Moore, an Army soldier and the first African American tomb guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery, served as inspiration for Jacocks to keep pressing forward toward her dreams.

‘I love the military. God put a serving spirit in me, and I knew that I had to get back in.” In 2009, she raised her right hand once more, taking the oath of enlistment to join the Air Force Reserve as a medic.

With thoughts of retirement after almost 20 years of combined service becoming closer to reality, Jacocks had a chance encounter with a nursing recruiter that would reshape her military trajectory… again. By pure chance, a recruiter attended a conference call that Jacocks attended, offering information on how airmen could commission as an officer for nursing services.

Today, she is a nurse patient aligned care team educator at Tennessee Valley VA and a recently commissioned nursing officer in the Air Force Reserve.

“Working with a woman currently serving and working at VA is amazing.”

In early March, Jacocks raised her right hand once more to swear in as a 1st Lt. in the Air Force Reserve. Surrounded by friends, family and supportive VA co-workers, Jacocks received her first salute from Major Samantha Dobler, a fellow VA primary care provider and Army officer. 

“Samantha was my provider when I was working in the women’s health clinic. Working with another woman who is currently serving and working at VA is amazing. She’s been in the military longer than me and is positive and enthusiastic, which inspires me. It reminds me that if she can do it, I can do it, too.

“I don’t know how else to describe it other than this was what God had for my path. When I was thinking of retiring, He showed me there is still work to be done. He has been preparing me for this new opportunity and I’m ready for it.”

Jacocks serves as an inspiration to all women and service members, reminding them the power of perseverance, determination and a steadfast commitment to duty. “Never let someone tell you what you can and cannot do. And always remember that delay does not mean denial,” she said.

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