My name is Alvin Reyes. I would first like to say Thank You to all the Warriors for their sacrifices and choice to defend our county and the world. My journey with the military family started when I was a child. I grew up in the city of Hawthorne. I come from a family of business people and veterans. I have family in most of the military branches and government branches, or as a government contractor’s. My mother was a Northrop Grumman contractor and because of family and church I was always around WW2 and Vietnam War veterans. Close to half my teachers throughout my whole education have been veterans. My own Pastor from my church was an Army Vietnam War veteran and worked for the VA Hospital in Long Beach before he pasted from complications due to Agent Orange. I learned allot from their stories of war and friendships they had, or have because of the military. It actually saved my life having that knowledge countless times.
Growing up around government people and veterans in the City of Hawthorne and its airport watching those planes take off over my head everyday is what gave me the idea to join the military. That was the only way I knew out of Los Angeles and the only way to reach my goals and dreams at the time. When I was 7 years old I decided to join the Navy to become a fighter jet pilot and maybe one day Naval Astronaut. The movie Top Gun is what gave me the idea along with my family background. Then living near the Hawthorne airport and LAX seeing those planes everyday was a daily reminder of what I wanted to do with my life. I grew up taking care of my ill mother and grandmother from the time I was about 8 years old. Both of them got sick due too old age and illnesses. My mother became ill while working as a government contractor for Northrop Grumman. I still take care of them until this day. They are the other reason why I joined the military. I grew up being told all the stories of the Civil War in El Salvador. It is one of the many reasons who and what I have become as a person and military veteran. It’s also the reason they came here to the United States as War Refugees.
I started the process of joining the Navy close to a month before 9/11 happened. I woke up to watching the news like I did everyday before I would go to school and 9/11 was happening live on T.V. I watched the whole thing happen live on T.V. I’ve seen those images on T.V. countless times. I still can see the whole thing in my head like if it was just yesterday. My brother lives in NY State and lost two people he knew in the towers that day. When I realized what was happening I said out loud to family looks like I am going to war. I didn’t go to school for a week. I finished my enlistment on September 27TH, 2001. I enlisted at 17 years old with my mother’s written permission at the MEPS Station in Los Angeles at the beginning of High School senior year. I was in the delayed entry program for almost a year. All I had to do was Graduate from High School. I took the summer off and then went to Boot Camp in Great Lakes Illinois. Which as a joke we call it Great Mistakes. I went into the Navy as Engineman. Which, means I was a Ships Engineer the whole time I was on Active Duty as my primary MOS, or in the Navy we call it Rate. I also volunteered in Boot Camp to go to BUD/S. Basic Underwater Demotions Seal Training, but I was temporality medically disqualified due to an ingrown tow nail removal in my second week of boot camp. I wasn’t allowed to swim in the pool due to my bleeding toe and for sanitation reasons. I wasn’t allowed to take my basic swim test until almost the end of boot camp class and because of that non-swim qualification. I wasn’t allowed to take my PST exam to go to BUD/S. I wasn’t allowed to train with the Seals anymore. I was told I could do my PST exam in (A) school. (A) School is our job training class for our chosen field of work in the military, or Navy. When I got to (A) School I was told they had just change the rule and that I would no longer be allowed to take the PST exam for BUD/S until I got to the Ships Fleet and first command.
When I got done with training in Great Lakes after 7 ½ months, I was deployed to my first ship which was the U.S.S Hawes FFG-53, which was forward deployed in the Mediterranean Sea attached NATO Command in support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Global War on Terrorism. We were hunting Saddam Hussein on cargo ships coming through the Suez Canal and Straight of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a fast frigate guided missile submarine hunter ship. It was stationed out of Norfolk Virginia. Our job was to keep enemy submarines out of U.S. waters and do maritime interdiction operations. Which means we did cargo ship security, anti-drug operations, customs, law enforcement, immigrations, anti-terrorism, counter-terrorism, intelligence operations, anti-pirate operations, anti-weapons, anti-weapons of mass destruction, national security, and support special operations forces. I volunteered to be on the VBSS Team which stands for VISIT BOARD SEARCH AND SEIZURE. We were trained by Navy Seals to do VBSS. I was the engineer on the team and it was my job to be the point man and be making sure that the ships we were checking out that it was sea worthy. I was tasked with breaching the ships interior and checking for potential enemies and also it basically means won’t sink while we are on it. I was tasked with being an interpreter and security of detainees and collection of evidence and intelligence. I was also an interpreter in Spanish for Navy while I was apart of that command for two years. I had allot of fun on that ship and was sent out all over the world and the U.S. as P.R. reps by the Chief of Naval Operations for recruiting purposes. We were a small ship that didn’t have many weapons so we could go places most ship couldn’t go and do things other ships can’t. We were allot more flexible with our missions.
When I transferred after two years I went to the West Coast to San Diego California to be stationed on the U.S.S New Orleans LPD-18. It is named after the city of New Orleans. It was also a Pre-Commissioned ship which means we were stationed in San Diego, but the ship was built in the City of New Orleans on the Mississippi River at the Northrop Grumman ship yard. Hurricane Katrina hit the city and put our command in construction back one year. Most people left the city and the construction people went to different states. I was forward deployed too New Orleans to help with completion of the ship and cleanup efforts and help rebuilding of the city. It was a ghost town. Even when I was done with my mission there in the city was still only at 40% of its pre-Katrina population. Our unit commissioned the ship and we transited back through the Panama Canal back to its home port city of San Diego.
I was back at home for about five months when I found out they needed someone to go to Iraq in support of GWOT operations training with the Iraqi Army. I volunteered for the mission because since I had not been able to pursue at the beginning my goal of becoming a Navy Seal due to short term injury, the rules and my family obligations. I was a single guy with no children besides me supporting my parents which lived in my house here in Hawthorne. I volunteered, because everyone else had a family and had been away from longer then me. That and I was the only one in the Engineering Department in the Unit with Combat training and experience. I saw this as my opportunity of learning and doing what I wanted to do without going through the two year training program of seal training and having to extend for another tour of duty before my second enlistment which was 3 year was completed. I had planned on making the military a career and changing my job and going officer while I was in Iraq. I had looked into at the time transferring into the Army through the Blue to Green program and become a warrant officer and doing Intelligence with Special Forces. I wanted to taste the Army and Special Forces life before I wound make the full commitment again to pursuing that life as a career path. I volunteered to go on a 15 month deployment with the Army as a Military Training Team Advisors, or MITT Team Advisor to train the Iraqi Army in a small Special Forces trained style unit. We were trained by Special Forces and regular Army to do their job in Iraq at Fort Riley Kansas with the 1ST Infantry Division Devil’s Brigade. The military wanted Special Forces hunting and capturing the enemy, but they still needed trainers training the Iraqi’s. We also were trained to help the Iraqi’s with reconstruction and rebuilding their country. We were also tasked with anti-corruption within the Iraqi military and Government. There was allot of corruption within their military and their soldiers weren’t being feed, housed and outfitted with the proper gear. The corruption was so bad that they had us Americans handle their money in the country and here back in the U.S. in our banks. We as a unit had to make sure our Iraqi officers weren’t stealing the money and ensuring it didn’t get to the terrorist in anyway. Everything that needed to be done had to get approved by allot of people signatures so we were doing the round around allot to ensure their Army was becoming less independent on the U.S. and become more self-efficient on their own. We were basically running a Boot Camp and training schools for their military specialties. If their soldier’s couldn’t do the their job our people may have been their longer then we the U.S. would have wanted to be just like what is going on in Afghanistan now.
I was hurt while serving in Iraqi by Missile and Mortar attack at Camp Taji Iraq where I was stationed during my 1 year tour on ground in Iraq. It was lunch time. I was driving on the Iraqi side of the base when we were attacked in January of 2009. I was hit by the shock wave of the strike that injured me while driving. I had my seatbelt on and I was driving a very heavy Ford pick-up truck. My Iraqi interpreters housing unit absorbed most of the shock wave and by the time it hit my truck the seatbelt and weight of the truck saved me from being hurt worst or being killed. I was thrown in my car door and hit my head nearly breaking the glass window. I wasn’t wearing any head gear at the time, because it wasn’t required on base. I incurred a TBI/Brain Injury, PTSD/Post Traumatic Stress, Left & Right Shoulder injuries and other scars along with several other injuries. I would never change anything I’ve done ever. I liked being out there in Iraq. I got too to go to many of the places which our human history comes from and see it with my own eyes. I got out of the military, because of my injuries and have moved on to college and recovery with the help the VA system moving forward with the pursuit of my dreams and goals in a civilian career with U.S. Government. I hope to start a family of my own in the future someday.
Thank You again to all the Warriors. Never give up on your dreams and goals they are still achievable in many ways just not like we would want, but that’s the challenge of life. We must find away and when there is a will, there is a way. God bless you all and many years hope, peace and joy with your families.
Evil Triumphs when Good Men do nothing. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for Good Men to do nothing. The lives of the many out weigh the lives of the few.
By (Edmund Burke)