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Face of Defense: Soldier Draws Motivation From Loss

By Army Maj. Ruth Castro, 1st Mission Support Command

AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico, Oct. 17, 2016 — “I want to be just like my father” is a phrase many young boys and men say at one point in their life. Army Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Velez, native of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, wanted nothing more than to feel like he was at the same level as his father: disciplined, smart, computer-savvy and an all-around outdoors guy.

“My father was never in the military,” Velez said. “He sure does have the qualities of a soldier though. He is very disciplined, and I wanted to feel like I was on the same level as him.”

Velez enlisted in the Army Reserve at the age of 20 as an administrative specialist and was assigned to the 246th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) here.

“It took me a couple years to build enough courage to tell my father I wanted to join the military,” he said. “He is very supportive of my career, and I think he understands me now more than ever. He has always encouraged me to do what I want as long as I am the best at it.”

After serving a couple of years in the Army Reserve, Velez said, he decided to join the active-duty Army.

“I wanted to be a leader, because I knew I was a good follower,” he said. “After I earned my bachelor’s degree, I went active duty and re-classed as an infantryman. While at school, 9/11 happened, and I wanted to deploy right away.”

9/11 Reaffirmed Commitment

Like many of his fellow infantry soldiers, Velez said, 9/11 reaffirmed his commitment to the military and he wanted action. “I asked to be deployed as soon as I heard,” he added. “They told us we needed to wait until we arrived at our units. The 3rd Infantry Division went first, and then we, the 1st Armored Division, went right behind them.”

After his active duty contract ended, Velez said, he decided he would re-enlist back into the Army Reserve.

“As a father or mother, receiving calls of your son in the middle of the night is terrifying,” he explained. “I couldn’t stay infantry longer than my initial commitment. My parents received a few of those frightening calls. I was involved in a few deadly accidents that have helped shape my way of life. Thankfully, I came out of these accidents and my deployment injury-free, but some of my battles were not so lucky.”

Velez lost three of his unit members during a tragic training accident before deployment and two others while on deployment. “The loss of my brothers has made me stronger,” he said. “I think of them often, and we keep them alive in our thoughts and actions. They motivate the heck out of me!”

Throughout his military career, Velez said, he holds has held on strong to the discipline and courage he has gained.

“My family gave me discipline, but it was the military that gave me courage to attack it from the front,” he said. “I’ve learned and grown so much since I joined.”
Distribution channels: Military Industry