A turning point: the story of Sgt. Aldo Reyes
~ From high school drop out to highly educated Soldier and role model
ROBINSON MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ark. - The 233rd Regional Training Center’s Sgt. Aldo Reyes of North Little Rock is a proud father of five and a dedicated Soldier with a promising future. But that wasn’t always the case.
Surrounded by negative influences as a juvenile, Reyes had found himself continuously in trouble. In 1995, he was court ordered to attend the Civilian Student Training Program (CSTP) at Camp Robinson, but a return to those same negative influences again threatened to guide him down the wrong path.
“I was into a lot of trouble,” said Reyes, “to a point where I needed assistance getting started out with my life.”
In 1996, Reyes dropped out of high school, and once again found himself on Camp Robinson. This time he was attending the Guard’s Youth Challenge Program where he earned his GED.
The son of immigrant parents, Reyes said his father sent him to South America to live with his grandmother after graduation from that program in order to keep him from returning to those negative influences in his life.
“My dad did a great thing by sending me there,” said Reyes. “They sent me there until I turned 17 so my friends and everybody would move on, and it worked.”
But even after having completed Youth Challenge and becoming separated from his previous negative influences, he still faced one of the biggest challenges of his life… he was about to become a father at the age of 18.
“Looking back, I was like… wow… all I have is a GED, a ninth grade education, working at Taco Bell,” he said reminiscing on that major turning point in his life. What can I do with my life so my daughter will be proud of me?”
Reyes said he then answered his own question by saying, “I want to be a Soldier.”
That’s when he decided to join the Arkansas National Guard.
“I didn’t get any type of bonus,” he said. “I didn’t care for any of that stuff. I didn’t care about going to college at the time. All I wanted to do was be a Soldier.”
Reyes completed his initial entry training and began looking to set and achieve even higher goals, with the focus on being a positive role model for his children.
“That’s when I found out about the benefits,” Reyes said of the educational opportunities available through service in the Guard. “That’s when I started caring [about education].”
That’s also when he started taking advantage of those benefits and began to far exceed the expectations of all who knew him from his past.
“They didn’t expect me to do that great. They expected less of me,” he said. “Thanks to the Arkansas National Guard, I’ve accomplished more than they could even imagine.”
“During my 13 years, I received a technical certificate from Pulaski Tech; got an associate’s degree from Vincennes’s; got another associate’s degree from Pulaski Tech; got my bachelor’s from John Brown University; and now I’m working on my master’s at Webster,” said Reyes. “The Guard has helped me in so many ways to build my education, basically free of charge.”
While the Guard’s educational benefits were the means to achieve these most recent goals, Reyes attributed the words of his father as one inspiration for him to succeed while also striving to inspire his own children.
“Don’t be like me. Be better than me,” Reyes said as he spoke the words of his father. “That’s exactly what I’m trying to show them.”
Today, Reyes serves as a role model to more than just his own children. Remembering where he came from, he said he often offers advice to those he sees walking in the same steps he had in the past. And as a full time Guardsman currently stationed at Camp Robinson, he has that opportunity often with current cadets attending CSTP and Youth Challenge today.
“I bring it up to their attention. This is who I am. This is what I’ve done. I’ve worn the same boots as you guys. I understand what you’re going through,” he said adding, “This is what I did after I got out. I took that as a stepping stone, as a building block and created something from there.”
“I always tell them whatever you do, just don’t stop,” he said. “Don’t be like me. Be better than me.”
Produced by Sgt. 1st Class Adam Stone. Also available in high definition.
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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR, US
This work, SSG Aldo Reyes, by SGT Allen Guthrie, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.