JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
Family values are an important part of Staff Sgt. Maximo Vincente’s life. The lessons he learned from his mother and father when he was a young boy growing up in the Dominican Republic helped shape the man he grew up to be and—most importantly—prepared him for his future profession: a leader of Soldiers.
“I didn’t need to have somebody to tell me how to take care of Soldiers because I know what it’s like to get taken care of; from family, neighbors to strangers,” said Vincente, an observer, coach and trainer with 3rd Battalion, 314th Field Artillery Regiment. “Where I grew up, everyone took care of each other which translated very well into being a Soldier today.”
Vincente was the guest speaker for the battalion’s Hispanic Heritage Month Observance here on Oct. 5. The event was organized by one of Vincente's former supervisors, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Stout, who knew Vincente would be the perfect guest speaker because of his unique background.
“We wanted to put on an observance that had some kind of presentable facts, talked about history and military service,” said Stout. “But we didn’t want to take up too much time because Vincente has a good story to tell.”
Vincente was born in 1989 in Boston, Massachusetts, the only one of his siblings born in America. His family moved to New York City when he was four to be closer to family, but his father was deported back to the Dominican Republic shortly thereafter.
Looking back on his father’s deportation, Vincente said it was a blessing in disguise because the impact of the lessons he learned growing up probably would not have taken root otherwise.
“I'm glad it happened because I wouldn't be the person that I am today,” he said. “I learnt what it meant to be grateful, to work hard and have integrity. There’s one thing that I learned from this time and that’s family comes first.”
Vincente remembered his mother spending the next two years saving money to move the family back to the Dominican Republic to be with his father. She was a babysitter for over eight children during this time and received support from social services to make ends meet. They were active members within their church community which was also provided a source of support. All of the help they received assisted in speeding up the timeline to see his father again.
In 1997 Vincente's mother had saved enough money to fly the family back to the Dominican Republic and reunite with their father.
They lived in a small town then, where everyone knew everyone. A primarily Spanish speaking town, Vincente only really knew English. He had to learn Spanish through school but managed to keep up with his English through pop culture shows on television. Because of his obsession with English and American culture, his town gave him the nickname “little New York.”
In 2001 Vincente returned America to stay with his aunt in Providence, Rhode Island for a year, and said he was glad then to attend middle school in America where he remembers visiting the World Trade Center.
He returned home after the school year ended and began learning the values that would one day shape his character as an Army leader. Most of these lessons were from his father.
“I would scale the fish and clean them with him,” said Vincente. “When [other] fishermen caught lobster, they would freeze them because the water would make them weigh more when they sell it to restaurants, but my father took pride in selling fresh lobster and didn’t care about the extra pounds.”
“I didn’t think about these kinds of things when I was a kid but that is integrity,” he added. “It is also honor and commitment to what he did.”
Growing up, Vincente loved experiencing anything related to the U.S. His cousins knew this and would often bring him music, clothes, and gifts from America when they would visit.
Upon graduating high school in Santo Domingo, Vincente moved back to the U.S. to work and attend college. He attended community college for two years and transferred to Syracuse University. However, the university didn’t accept all of his credits and he didn’t have access to the partial scholarship he had before.
“I couldn’t afford the $50,000 to graduate and my options were limited,” Vincente said. “That’s when my cousin, who was serving in the Rhode Island National Guard, talked to me about joining the Army.”
After joining the Army, Vincente said he quickly realized many of the values he learned growing up were the same values expected of Soldiers, such as working as a team, doing your fair share of work, and having each other's backs.
“This is just one of the little things that shaped me throughout my career in the Army,” said Vincente. “The values I learned in the Dominican Republic with my family went along with what values I needed to have in the Army. When a Soldier of mine needed help when I was in a line unit, it was a no-brainer to help them out.”
Having his son join the Army was a source of pride for Vincente's father, who would find every opportunity to tell anyone that his son was serving in the Army.
“I am thankful for this country and for the Army because through it, I had my first profession and made my family proud,” Vincente said. “It brings me joy that this profession makes him proud and its allowing me to finish my degree in software engineering.”
Vincente closed his remarks with a call to action for those in attendance.
“What I would ask from ya’ll is that when you meet someone from a different heritage, you learn more about them and see where they’ve came from,” he said. “Once you understand them and where they come from, trust me, you’re going to get more out of that Soldier because you know who they are.”
“It’s going to make you a better leader and of course a better human being,” he said.