Motivated to make a difference and represent his country, Lawrence native Paul Reyes joined the Navy three years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Reyes, 30, Lawrence High School class of 2000, excelled during basic training and was recognized as an honor recruit. Currently stationed in Coronado, Cali. as a Navy Hospital Corpsman in the Explosive Ordinance Unit, he is qualified to work in a hospital setting and in combat. “Basic training included a lot of discipline and exercise,” he said.
Annie, Reyes’ mother and a Lawrence resident, said her son was a disciplined person before he joined the Navy. “He has compassion and drive and the Navy put that together in one neat package,” she said.
Stationed in Iraq throughout 2006, Reyes’ received first-hand combat experience. “That year was pretty rough because there were a lot of close calls and injuries,” he said. “A lot of things were blowing up and you’re never prepared for it until you see it.”
His experience in Iraq allowed Reyes to better train his fellow Navy soldiers by teaching them real-life combat scenarios. “Life is precious and I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “I apply that to everything I do.”
The Navy once again recognized his skills as Reyes was named Junior Sailor of the Year for 2012 out of 150 award candidates. “It’s just me doing my job,” he said about the recognition. “I’m focused at what I do and other people saw that.”
Cedarhurst-based Central Galleries Owner Jeff Beja met Reyes in 2001 when Reyes’ now wife, Stephanie, worked at the store. “I quickly became friends with Paul through Stephanie and within a few months he was helping out by setting up for artist receptions at the gallery,” Beja said. “Paul and I had lunch together almost everyday and one day while we were eating lunch he told me he was considering joining the service. I knew he was patriotic, a great worker and had a lot of potential. While I was scared for him, I was also very proud.”
Despite Reyes’ deployments, Beja said the two remain close. “You give him a job to do and he gets it done,” Beja said. “I believe he got his great work ethic from his terrific family support and I’m sure he will rise up in the ranks without even trying, just by continuing to get the job done.”