By Brooke Shafer

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Assistant Chief of Police Paul Acosta has been a member of the Miami Beach Police Department since 1995. In his time there, he’s served in various roles, including as a patrol captain, commander of the SWAT Team and an executive officer.

But before he was a police officer, Acosta wore a different uniform, as a member of the United States Marine Corps.

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“I was able to complete high school at age 16. The following month, I turned 17. Five days after that, I enlisted in the Marine Corps with the waiver signed by my mom,” Chief Acosta told CBS4’s Brooke Shafer.

Chief Acosta served as a U.S. Marine from 1987 to 1991 with 4 years of reserve time. It was a dream and goal he’d had since he was a young boy growing up in New York.

He was surrounded by military men in his family, but the day he decided he wanted to be a Marine he said he remembers vividly. When one day at baseball practice, 10-year-old Acosta spotted the Marine Elite Cadet Corps.

“That inspired me,” he said. “And I told my mom, ‘Mom, I don’t want to play baseball anymore. I want to be a Marine Cadet.’”

Paul in his Marine Corps dress blue uniform. (Courtesy of Paul Acosta)

Acosta was deployed twice, once to Libya and another time in early 1991 to the Gulf War when he was 20 years old.

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He still describes saying goodbye to his family, wife, and then 2-month-old daughter as one of the most difficult things he has ever done.

“I remember hearing a voice from afar and it was my wife. And she was saying goodbye one last time,” he recalled through tears. “She just wanted to connect one last time. So, it’s that vivid experience of what it is and what a military person experiences and goes through when they’re going off to war.”

Paul in his Marine Corps combat uniform. (Courtesy of Paul Acosta)

Soon after his time abroad, Acosta decided to become a police officer. He said it was the balance of the law and the excitement of the Marine Corps that drew him to the badge.

He would do it all again, “without question,” he said.

And it’s his years as a Marine that still inspire him at home with his children and at work in Miami Beach.

“The Marine Corps really changed my life and what I wanted to do,” Acosta said. “And the very foundation of what I wanted to do was continue to serve.”

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This Veteran’s Day, Acosta said there’s one thing we should all remember to do for anyone who has served our country: say thank you.