DeKALB – On his days off, Jose Jaques wears a T-shirt and baseball cap. When you ask him about his life, he’ll tell you that he doesn’t feel unique or special. He says that he’s just doing his job.
Jaques may be humble, but he’s definitely not ordinary: Jaques is a patrolman and school resource officer with the City of DeKalb Police Department and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Military awards he has earned include the Lincoln Medal of Freedom, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Meritorious Service Medal (4th Award).
Jaques has been selected as the honorary military parade marshal for the Kishwakuee Fest Parade of Parades. DeKalb Firefighter and Paramedic Jared Thorp will be the parade’s grand marshal.
The parade will be held Friday, starting at 7 p.m., in downtown DeKalb. It will include floats, music, pageant queens, fire trucks, tractors, local business entries and a special Christmas in July section. Classic and antique cars will lead the parade, promoting the Turning Back Time Car Show in Sycamore on Sunday.
Jaques met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to discuss his role with the City of DeKalb Police Department, his service to our country and his reaction to being selected as a parade marshal.
Milton: Are you originally from DeKalb?
Jaques: I came to DeKalb in 1989 to attend Northern Illinois University. I’m originally from Burnham, Illinois, near Hammond, Indiana. After graduating college, I worked for Laing Management in DeKalb, and then at Wolohan Lumber. I always wanted to be a policeman, and I tested for NIU’s police department while working at Wolohan Lumber. I worked there for eight months and attended the police training institute in Champaign. I tested at both the NIU and City of DeKalb police departments, and I will have been with the City of DeKalb Police Department for 21 years in September.
Milton: What do you do as an officer with the City of DeKalb Police Department?
Jaques: Part of my job is to teach a life skills-type class at DeKalb middle schools. I also do security and policing at the two middle schools, two days at each and one day at the high school. I help out at the elementary schools if needed. I also do bike patrol sometimes, like during the Fourth of July celebrations and Corn Fest.
Milton: What do you teach?
Jaques: I guest teach in sixth graders’ social studies classes. I cover topics like anger management, communication and life skills. The sixth-grade teachers tell me that when the students get their schedules for the following week and see that I will be coming into the classroom, they get excited.
Milton: What do you think makes you different from other teachers?
Jaques: I’m not your typical teacher, the students call me Officer JJ. I tell stories, answer silly questions and have fun and interact with them. I recently talked to them about use of force and showed them the United Airlines video. When I teach, I’m in a shirt and tie, not in my uniform. Usually they think of police officers in uniform, with a big black and white squad car. But when I come in and talk to them, I’m not a big, scary police officer. I’m Officer JJ.
Milton: Can you tell me about your service to our country?
Jaques: I have been in the Illinois National Guard Reserve System for 30 years. I graduated high school
in 1986 and joined the Illinois National Guard in 1987. When I was at NIU, I was in ROTC. I was an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves for 19 years. I’m still a member of the Illinois National Guard, and my duty is one weekend a month and two weeks per year. When I was in the reserves, I was mobilized to active duty at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. I was in command of the air field that shipped people, mostly to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2014 to 2015, for six months, I served in Bagram, Afghanistan. I was with Illinois’ Bilateral Embedded Staff Team.
Milton: What were some of your responsibilities in Afghanistan?
Jaques: I attended and participated in liaisons between the United States and the Polish National Army. Through the State Partnership Program, the Illinois National Guard works with the Polish military to improve readiness. We worked with NATO to make missions for both of our countries successful. During my six-month tour, I attended status meetings, serving as a representative of the U.S. to Poland, and helped with transportation and logistics for the Polish military.
Milton: How was life different after returning home?
Jaques: After coming back home, I gave the address at NIU’s ROTC Commissioning Ceremony. I had a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient speak at mine. It makes me ask myself, “Who am I, what have I done that’s special?” I did my job to the best of my ability. My mantra is “When in charge, take charge. When you’re not, don’t.” If I look back at my high school yearbook, I don’t think that that guy in that picture would ever think he would one day be a marshal in a parade.
Milton: What is your reaction to being selected as one of the parade’s marshals?
Jaques: I don’t really know what to say, it’s an honor. I definitely think that what I’ve done is unique, but I don’t know if it’s special. Many different types of people save lives every day: ER doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers. After working with law enforcement in different countries, states and cities, I can say that the City of DeKalb Police Department is wonderful and extremely professional. I’m proud and extremely lucky to work with them. I’m honored to be included in their ranks. Maybe what I’ve done is not the normal experience, but everyone has a position in society: police officers, firefighters, teachers. Everyone is a cog in the machine, and the machine requires all of those cogs to move.