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NEWS | Nov. 4, 2023

Beyond Self: A Journey into the Realm of Selfless Service

By Capt. Nancy Drapeza USAR Legal Command

In the halls of West Point Academy – where the values of “Duty, Honor, Country” have guided generations of Soldiers and American leaders since 1802 – lessons from a legacy of service were shared from Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient and Vietnam War veteran, Col. (ret) Jack Jacobs.

Speaking to a room of 60+ Army Reserve judge advocates, legal administrators, and paralegals from the 4th and 7th Legal Operations Detachments (LOD), the MOH recipient opened with the truth: when he commissioned in 1966, the goal for his service was not entirely selfless. “My objective was to serve my three years and go to law school,” he explained, not realizing that his service in the military and as the assistant battalion advisor, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam would create bonds of loyalty so strong, he traded his civilian dream for 20+ years of a career in uniform.


With less than 1% of U.S. adults serving in the Active Component of the U.S. Army and less than 200,000 Soldiers and Civilians serving in the Army Reserve, there are those like Col. (ret) Jacobs who sought to refine themselves as individuals, and found more upon accomplishing tasks as part of the team. Staff Sgt. Crysha Forsythe, paralegal noncommissioned officer (NCO) of the 4th LOD, has one such origin story, as she and her older brother were the first of their family to pursue military careers.

“I joined the Army Reserve to regain discipline in my life,” said Forsythe. “I wanted to challenge myself. My parents were very nervous, they weren’t sure what the military had to offer or where they were sending me.” Upon building her military career and rising to her current rank as an NCO, demonstrating the range of service Forsythe has provided in the Army Reserve, she shared that “now that they’ve seen me go to different schools and mobilizations, they’re proud and look forward to hearing about my next adventure.”

Jacobs is the first MOH recipient Forsythe has met in her military career. Her takeaways from his 50+ years of affiliation with the Army focused on his take on leadership, and the importance of leaders that are willing and able to do for others. “His views definitely made me think, especially as a new staff sergeant, on how I should be thinking strategically to better assist my commander. Selfless service to me means making sure that I equip others with what they need but also prepare myself so I’m not pouring from an empty cup. Selfless service to me is preparing others first. In my current capacity in the Army Reserve, that looks like putting junior Soldiers in the spotlight, becoming a stronger leader and building up others like the NCO Corps and junior officers.”


Reliability was a key theme in Col. (ret) Jacobs’ experience with his fellow Soldiers, how serving with integrity was the foundation of his unshakeable trust of those in uniform. “When you put the uniform on, you can rely on the people to your left and right. You’re part of something bigger than yourself.”

Among the crowd was 1st Lt. Tricia Reville, legal assistance attorney for the 4th LOD and associate at Debevoise & Plimpton. Upon completing law school at the onset of the pandemic and witnessing the wave of issues that followed, Reville noted that “COVID was a huge trigger and motivator. I wasn’t really doing anything, sitting in my parents’ house watching the news. I wanted to be part of the mission to help solve some of these issues. So I joined to give back, to contribute.”

Reville prides herself on maintaining her physical and mental fitness, ready to answer the call to deploy or mobilize at any moment as a legal professional. This commitment to readiness is not only fueled by her personal motivations to succeed, but also her desire to continue the legacy of service in her family: “My grandfather served in the Pacific theater during WWII and his brother was an Army Ranger in D-Day. Growing up and hearing their stories, they saw their roles as ‘we did what we had to do, came home, and moved on.’”


Of the 40 million servicemembers that have served in the Armed Forces since the Civil War, only 3,517 have earned the MOH. As of 2023, only 65 of those recipients are alive today.

Then Capt. Jacobs did not aim to earn a Medal on March 9, 1968, when he was under fire by Viet Cong forces. On that day, he acted upon his commitment to duty. Jacobs saved a wounded adviser with lifesaving first aid, and repelled three waves of Viet Cong squads with heavy automatic weapons. Upon killing three enemy combatants and wounding many, his commitment to duty allowed for the adviser, his wounded company commander and 12 other personnel to evacuate safely.

Following this story, Jacobs emphasized the importance of taking care of those who have protected the nation. “It requires the assistance of people like you and me. We have to be more involved in our communities among veterans to make sure that they know they can be taken care of.”

Providing quality service to veterans is a driving force of Capt. Anthony Rizzo’s purpose as a legal assistance attorney with the 7th LOD and grandson of two WWII and Korean War veterans. Rizzo shared his story of first having enlisted in the Marine Corps and attended law school after completing his service. As a law student, he initially focused on veteran advocacy and dedicated many hours to volunteering with veterans. Today, he draws upon their shared experiences of service when interacting with veterans on either side of the court.

Upon joining the U.S. Army JAG Corps in 2021, he credits his DCC and OBC experiences for forming his tight knit group of professionals among lawyers and judge advocates across the country. “I can call them at any point and kind of pick their brain on things and likewise, they’ll reach out to me and want to talk strategy on a case,” he shared. “I’ve realized the importance of that friendship and network over the past year that I never would’ve had, had I not joined the Army. I entirely credit that network to my decision to join the JAG Corps: Not only would you learn something new as a judge advocate that you wouldn’t learn anywhere else, but you are going to meet a wide breadth of very experienced attorneys, some who have a totally different background than you do. It helps you better yourself as an attorney, and to better other people.”

With lived experiences as a prior enlisted and Army Reserve Soldier, and a civilian assistant corporate counsel and JAG Corps attorney, Rizzo defines selfless service as intertwined with loyalty to your fellow teammates as well as commitment to the mission. “Selfless service means really just taking the initiative to do your job and doing it without being told. Being the silent servant. Doing the job because it needs to get done. Not for accolades, not for recognition, or anything like that. Making sure the folks you work with on your team know that you’re able to support them.”

Selfless Service

“Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving your country, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort.” - “The Army Values on Selfless Service”

In reflecting on his military career, Col. (ret) Jacobs credited every role upon his rise that contributed the experience needed to serve as an effective leader. “The big plus both to the Army and for me, is that when I became a battalion commander, and I was a special courts martial convening authority, I knew the UCMJ. I knew the rules of evidence and all of that stuff because I’ve done it all. As a result of that, I became a much better person administering actions.”

Among his closing statements, Jacobs commended the attendees of the joint training exercise, reminding them of their greater potential to provide quality service as Army Reserve Soldiers and legal professionals. “I’ve been retired for 36 years,” reflected Jacobs, “I always feel better when I’m around people in uniform and those who have served. If you’ve been in uniform, you can do anything.”