General Paul Selva, who had a Portuguese father, grew up in Portugal and later rose to top levels of the U.S. Pentagon


Few Luso-Americans have risen to the top of the US military hierarchy as did General Paul Joseph Selva, son of Portuguese immigrant Domingos Trindade Selva, who was born in the neighborhood of Rabo de Peixe, São Miguel Island (Azores). Selva, who became  Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served under two administrations (Barack Obama and Donald Trump), and retired on August 1, 2019, when he was only 62. That was no small feat: as  Vice- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,a role that he held from July 31, 2015 to August 1, 2019, Paul Selva was the second highest-ranking military officer in the nation, and the highest-ranking officer in the Air Force.

In his retirement ceremony, Selva had not only Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper present, but almost all high-ranking officers of the Pentagon. That, however, was not surprising. Since he started serving as Vice-Chairman, the general has had a fundamental role in the creation of all new US defense strategies, domestically and internationally.

In the same ceremony, General Paul Selva was awarded the Distinguished Defense Service Medal, in recognition of the more than 11 thousand days in his country’s service.

His Luso-American life story is one worth telling:

He was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, on September 27, 1958, son of Portuguese immigrant Domingos Trindade Selva, native of the town of Rabo de Peixe, São Miguel (Azores).

In 1949, his father Domingos Selva enlisted in the Portuguese Air Force and went to Lisbon to become a Wireless Radio Operator. When he returns to the Azores, he is placed in the Lajes Base. Since he spoke English, he was selected to complete a radar course in the United States.

He went to the Keesler Air Base, in Biloxi, MI, where he meet his future wife, American Mary Margaret, who would later marry him in São Miguel, at the Bom Jesus Church, in Rabo de Peixe, on December 4, 1954.

Four months later, the Selvas were back to Biloxi, MI, where they worked at the Keesler Air Base. Five years later, already an American citizen and with three children (one of them, Paul, the future General), he travels with the family to visit his parents in the  Azores, where he is invited to work at the Lajes Base, in Terceira. It was an 18-month contract that lasted 33 years.

In the Azores, the Selvas would have another three children. All six went to high school in Lajes and only went to the United States for their higher education. Two of the boys chose a career in the Air Force – General Paul Selva and Colonel Michael Selva, who is based in Colorado Springs.

Domingos and Margaret Selva retired in 1991, from the Department of State, and after 33 years in the Açores, they returned to the United States, where they  six children and 15 grandchildren are living. They first lived in Mississippi, Margaret’s home state, but later settled in Jefferson City, where  they had two children. The General’s mother passed away  on  December 19, 2019, and thus Domingos lost  at this time his life partner of 70 years.

General Paul Selva graduated in 1980 in Aerospace Engineering, from the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado. Later, he attended the Squadron Officer School (Maxwell AFB, Alabama), and Abilene Christian University, in Texas, for  further education.

As a pilot, he completed more than 3,300 hours of flight time  in 7 types of military aircraft.

He was awarded 15 military decorations, among them, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Service Medal.