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Five Questions with Marine Corps veteran Kevin Rincon about continuing to serve

W. Kenneth Medley II • Feb 23, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Kevin Rincon has packed a lot of moving into his 29 years.

After his start as the son of immigrants in New York, a year in Colombia, South America, three years in Miami, Florida, and a return to New York in the 9/11 era, his family relocated to North Carolina.

That’s where Rincon joined the Marine Corps, a place he says was his calling – but not a place where he would shed his traveling ways. He spent time in Afghanistan with the Marines, fighting the enemy as an infantryman before returning to the continental U.S.

Now this warfighter is in a new fight: battling veteran homelessness in eight counties across Northeast Tennessee with the Volunteers of America — a move spurred by a weekend leisure trip while in the Marines.

Can you tell me about yourself?

I am from an immigrant family, born in New York. both my parents are descendants of Columbia, South America. Throughout my pre-teenage years I kind of moved around a lot. I lived in New York for a little bit. I lived in Columbia for close to a year of my life. I also lived in Miami for three years. Moved back up to New York from the ages of 9 to about 12-ish. From there, after 9/11, I moved down to North Carolina. I lived in North Carolina from 12 to 18 years old.

Whenever I was 18 I lived in Statesville, North Carolina, where I graduated high school and joined the military. I decided to join the Marines because that is where I felt most of my pride and thought that was my calling. I did four years in the Marines, I deployed twice to Afghanistan during my time.

After that my roommates, from the Marines, were from Tennessee. One was from Hampton, and we came up here to enjoy the weekend one time. That was the weekend I met my wife, and I have been here ever since.

How do you like Johnson City so far?

I believe that Johnson City is a big, big city in a small town. We have all of the accommodations of a big city and if you need more, you have close access to Asheville, Boone or Knoxville. You are not that far from big city living and here you get all the elements, all the weather, all four seasons. You have all kinds of cultures growing and I foresee Johnson City being a growing community for some time to come.

Can you tell me a little bit about your time in the Marine Corps and why you separated?

My time in the Marine Corps was very … exciting. It was high-speed; we were always training to go to combat. Whenever I got to my unit everyone knew we were going to deploy to Afghanistan. That was the plan and what we were going to do. Everything that we trained for and did was geared toward being combat-ready. I believe that was something that was embedded into our leadership.

Being a combat unit, having to go through all of this, puts a lot of stress on a normal person. Luckily, I was guided by veterans of war that had been in combat, so I had awesome leadership. My second deployment we were supposed to go on a Marine expeditionary unit, where we ride on ship with the Navy. We are a force ready for anything.

Three months into our deployment we were informed that our ship ride was over and we were going back to Afghanistan. That made it a little bit exciting. Being in the Marine Corps infantry that is ultimately the goal: to go to combat and perform your duties that you signed up to do and I got every bit of it that I asked for. It was high-speed, low-drag. I decided to get out because I believe that two Afghanistan deployments and coming out with all my extremities was enough. I believe that I served my time honorably.

What is the inspiration to do your work at the VOA?

Being a veteran, and also having my degree from East Tennessee State University in social work, being involved with the VA and talking with social workers there kind of inspired me to become a social worker myself. That pushed me to go into the social work field. Now that I have learned of Volunteers of America within the last year, I felt that that was the organization that I could see myself working for and giving back to my fellow veterans/brothers and help them out. Especially the ones that have been less fortunate than I; it is time to help these brothers and sisters out and get them off the street.

What type of fulfillment do you get from your job with the VOA?

I get to go home and feel good about what I do. Whenever I get a veteran off the streets into a home, an apartment or into a place where they are out of the elements and not feeling the cold, the wind or the rain; I feel grateful to be able to do what I do.

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