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Mother’s and Son's Journeys To The FBI
by Federal Bureau of Investigation
May 18, 2024

FBI Special Agent Kevin Vázquez has been part of the FBI extended family since his mom, Supervisory Special Agent Marilyn Santos, joined the Bureau when he was a kid. Their interconnected journeys highlight a shared dedication, sacrifice, and commitment to justice.

May 2024 - Supervisory Special Agent Marilyn Santos and Special Agent Kevin Vázquez, both of FBI San Juan, with their badges in front of the American flag and the FBI flag. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from FBI courtesy photo.)
May 2024 - Supervisory Special Agent Marilyn Santos and Special Agent Kevin Vázquez, both of FBI San Juan, with their badges in front of the American flag and the FBI flag. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from FBI courtesy photo.)

Santos started her career with the IRS before joining the FBI as a special agent in 2006. As a mother of three young children navigating the challenges of single parenthood, her path to law enforcement was born out of a conviction to make an impact.

“I had two main goals: to serve my country and provide for my children,” said Santos. “The Bureau offered me a way to do both.”

Santos’ first assignment as a new agent was with the Miami Field Office, where she and her kids relocated to from their home in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I was a divorced mother, with three young children, in an unknown state, with a new job ... it was very challenging,” said Santos. “But I knew that as long as we were together, we were going to accomplish great things.”

Nearly two decades later ... with the help of coworkers she now calls family ... Santos has delivered on her promise to herself, her kids, and to her country. While in Miami, Santos worked on drug and international terrorism investigations and was awarded the Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award before relocating back to San Juan.

In 2010, the FBI launched Operation Guard Shack, a massive public corruption takedown in San Juan that led to more than 130 arrests. Nearly 1,000 FBI personnel from 50 of the FBI’s 56 field offices supported the takedown ... including Santos, who was a case agent as part of the Police Corruption Squad.

According to Santos, being a public servant requires an immense sacrifice, but her career with the FBI has allowed her the opportunity to help others, to seek justice, and, most importantly, to set an example for her children.

Growing Up In A FBI Family

Strict. That is how Vázquez recalls his household growing up. And he was no stranger to sacrifice himself ... often taking on the role of both older brother and caretaker for his younger siblings while his mom worked long hours.

“As I got older, I realized what kind of work my mom was doing and the sacrifices involved,” said Vázquez. “I’m really proud of the work she’s done as a successful agent. It’s been an inspiration for my own career.”

In 2011, Vázquez traveled to Washington, D.C., to see his mom receive the Director’s Award for Outstanding Criminal Investigation and the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement. Vázquez said it was the first time he recognized the scope of the FBI’s mission, and the critical and personal impact his mom’s work was having.

Continuing A Legacy Of Law Enforcement

Vázquez’s journey started with the FBI Honors Internship Program. “Through all my experiences and the people I met,” he said, “I quickly realized I wanted a career with the Bureau, and it became my goal to become a special agent.”

As an intern, Vázquez work on multiple squads ... counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and cyber ... before accepting a full-time administrative position as an operational support technician where he did anything and everything for three years.

“I got really involved in a lot of different areas because I wanted to take it all in and learn as much as I could,” Vázquez said. “I learned a lot about the foundation of how everything runs.”

Vázquez then spent four years as an intelligence analyst and gained critical experience as part of the FBI San Juan Field Office. Seeking out new work opportunities across the FBI, a curiosity for learning, and the support of his colleagues prepared him for his next role as a special agent.

“I wanted to be an FBI special agent because that’s what I saw growing up through my mom’s example,” said Vázquez. "It’s also the agency I wanted to give back to for everything that it gave to me.”

In 2022, Vázquez passed the FBI’s special agent application process.

"I was really happy for him,” said Santos. “I knew he really wanted to do this, and he went into it knowing the sacrifices and knowing the hard work, the long hours, everything that’s entailed in becoming an agent, and that made me super proud."

When it was time for Vázquez to attend the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, for the intensive Basic Field Training Course, Santos had mixed feelings.

“I was concerned. I was scared. He was still my boy. I had experienced it, and I knew how hard it was,” said Santos. “I had to just realize that this is his calling, and I knew that he is meant to accomplish great things.”

The years of sacrifice and dedication paid off in August 2023 when Vázquez reached his goal of graduating as a special agent with the FBI ... and receiving his badge and credentials from his mom.

“I remember the day of the graduation,” said Santos. “I was looking his way and felt tears coming out of my eyes. As he was walking on the stage, and I was walking to him, I knew right then and there that everything was going to be fine.”

Now, after 17 years as a special agent, Santos has a new title at work: Kevin’s mom. And she loves it.

“I just feel an immense sense of gratitude, and I'm so happy for him,” said Santos. “And I know that he’s going to accomplish even greater things than I have accomplished because he cares, he knows what the mission is, and he does it with passion and with commitment.”

Their paths converged in a poignant moment in September 2023, as they found themselves side by side on a joint operation with Vázquez ... a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

“It requires a lot of commitment, but I wouldn’t change what I do,” said Santos. “When I look back, I will do it all over again because it matters. Even if it is only for one person, it does matter. We are touching lives, we're helping, and that is something that no one can take away from you.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) | Department of Justice

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