A Call to Serve

By Jose M.
March 26, 2019

Our very own TEFL Program Specialist, Jose, shares with us how he lives out his “call to service” both on the ground and in the air!

To serve in any capacity is a great honor and privilege. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a way to transform my passion for service into a career, serving my country both as the Program Specialist for the TEFL program supporting Peace Corps Volunteers around Costa Rica and as a volunteer pilot flying for the Costa Rican Air National Guard.

Service has always been important to me because, while I’m able to help make someone’s life better, the joy they experience is often reflected back in my own eyes. In my opinion, the call to service is not something that happens by chance but rather, at least in my experience, stems from a feeling deep within that grows until it becomes a need that gives way to action. Only by finding joy and appreciation for opportunities in your own life can you truly be ready to share this “service philosophy of life” with others.

In many ways, I can’t help but feel that the call to a “life of service” is in my genes. My grandmother, Jean Pohly, came to Costa Rica from the United States as a volunteer for the “Alianza para el Progreso” in the mid-1940s. This initiative was heavily endorsed by former US-President John F. Kennedy and later served as the foundation for the formation of the United States Peace Corps! During her service, my grandmother met my grandfather and ultimately decided to move full-time to Costa Rica to start a family. Even after her volunteer service, my grandmother remained committed to giving back to others, though she rarely would talk about her activism. I only recently discovered that she had supported a local orphanage for many years! Never the kind to brag or boast, she was always reserved about her life and the great things she has done, something I have come to greatly admire and respect.

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Jose in a meeting with the TEFL program team and other PCCR staff.

As fate would have it, more than 60 years after my grandmother’s initial service in Costa Rica, I ended up applying for a job to work for the Peace Corps after stumbling upon a job description in the local newspaper. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away before I could share with her that I too would be following in her footsteps as an ally of and advocate for the Peace Corps' mission. I wish I could sit with her and discuss our collective service experiences, however, in my heart I know she is watching over me with a great sense of pride as I continue to strive to honor her legacy and commitment to service.

In contrast to my Peace Corps journey, the path I pursued to become a pilot in the Air National Guard is rather unique. I studied aviation 17 years ago but ultimately ended up dropping out of ground and flight school after receiving my Private License wings due to a lack of funds needed to cover the high costs of training courses. Two years ago, I came in contact with a pilot in the Air National Guard who asked if I would consider joining their ranks. Itching to get back in the air to use my aviation knowledge after a long hiatus, I asked myself, “What do you have to lose?” Shortly after, I sold my beautiful bike to pay for flight school and, picking up where I left off, eventually obtained my Commercial License. After completing my first flight missions as a SIC (Copilot or Second in Command), what was once just an expensive hobby quickly transformed into a profound call to serve my country, a privileged position that to this day I do not take lightly.

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Jose in his Air National Guard uniform during one of his weekends of service.

Serving the missions of the Peace Corps and the Air National Guard has been incredibly rewarding to be able to “wear the sandals of a good Samaritan” helping to spread the seeds of peace, care, support and friendship. Though these roles are vastly different with their own unique demands, both offer fruitful experiences that make the work I do feel less like a job and more a labor of passion. There isn’t anything more rewarding than to wake up and feel like you want to continue doing what you do every single day or weekend!

Despite their inherent differences, looking towards the future, I can see how these roles may eventually overlap. For example, through the Air National Guard, we offer ambulance flights that may need to be deployed to support Volunteers at site. Conversely, within the Air National Guard I frequently draw upon my English training to help support fellow pilots improve their English proficiency and am often referred to as “The Teacher” among my peers. Overall, my experiences within each role continue to reinvigorate and shape my desire to serve, making me more sensitive to those who require my support and expertise while also challenging me to conceive new ways I can extend myself to better serve others.

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Jose with the TEFL program team and Response Volunteer, Christine.

In closing, if I could share one important lesson I have learned along the way in my collective journey with those similarly called to a life of service, I would say, fly your life in accordance with your authentic spirit and seek to leave behind appreciation and joy. In doing so, you will not only be able to lead a more fruitful life, but you will also help to inspire others to find the courage to do the same. Needless to say, this new air service adventure could not be possible without the support of my lovely wife, Melissa, who has graciously allowed me to sacrifice our family time to go and serve my wings and my country.

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