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NEWS | Oct. 12, 2016

Motivated by Loss

By Maj. Ruth Castro

“I want to be just like my father” is a phrase many young boys and men say at one point in their life.  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.

Velez enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve at the age of 20 as an Administrative Specialist (71L) and was assigned to the 246th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. “It took me a couple years to build enough courage to tell my father I wanted to join the military,” said Velez. “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 being in the Army Reserve for a couple years, I decided I wanted to go active duty. I wanted to be a leader because I knew I was a good follower,” commented Velez. “After I earned my bachelor’s degree, I went active duty and re-classed as an Infantryman (11B). While at school 9/11 happened and I wanted to deploy right away.”

Like many of his fellow 11Bs, Velez said the incidents from 9/11 reaffirmed his commitment to the military and he wanted action. “I asked to be deployed as soon as I heard,” said Velez. “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 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,” said Velez. “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,” said Velez. “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 holds 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. I’ve learned and grown so much since I joined,” concluded Velez.