Victoria native retires after 30 years in the Marines
By BY KAYLA BELL
July 12, 2010 at 2:12 a.m.
In between sips of a margarita, Georgia Reyna recalled the friendships she'd made during her 30 years in the Marine Corps.
"There's probably not one state in which I don't know somebody," she said.
Right on cue, Don McDade approached the Chili's bar where Reyna was sitting with two other friends. Reyna reached up with excitement to hug the Vietnam veteran, who had served 23 years with the Army.
"They've all become kind of like my second family," Reyna said.
Reyna retired from the Marines in November after reaching the branch's highest enlisted rank - Master Gunnery Sergeant.
Since then, Reyna's been visiting friends around the country - from Chicago to Florida to Las Vegas.
"The most I've been home since November is three days," the Oceanside, Calif., resident said.
Just this past Wednesday, Reyna set out on her latest trip - a 22-hour drive to her hometown of Victoria.
"When I retired, I had the urge to just drive. I said, 'It's time to go.'"
Reyna graduated from Stroman High School in 1976 and went on to study teaching at Victoria College for one-and-a-half years.
"It wasn't fulfilling," Reyna said of her time in college. "I wanted a challenge. I didn't want to sit still; I wanted to see things."
The travel opportunities the Marines offered proved appealing, but Reyna said she was worried about whether she'd be able to handle the physical challenges of the military.
"I couldn't even run one lap at Stroman," she said, laughing. "I took band in place of PE."
Now, Reyna's a marathon runner.
"Challenges are there for you to be committed and overcome your weakness," she said of her training with the Marines.
After completing boot camp, Reyna was sent to Oceanside, where she moved up the ranks quickly, she said.
She then went to Hawaii and travelled around the Pacific, including Samoa, Guam, Japan and South Korea.
"Being able to actually open your horizons, see other cultures and acknowledge other people's completely different ways of living," were the things Reyna said she most cherished from her time in the Marines.
But after 30 years, she said she felt ready to retire.
"I was content to reach my goal of achieving the highest rank. And to be female, and Hispanic," she said, noting that less than 1 percent of the 202,000 Marines are Hispanic women.
David Rubio, who met Reyna in Victoria in 1976, attended Reyna's retirement service in California. Rubio said she flew him out to spend the week with her, on the condition that he DJ for her reception.
Rubio said the experience was more emotional than he expected.
"Her retirement brought tears to a lot of people," he said. "My heart was still pounding from the ceremony, from what this person had accomplished all these years."
Rubio said meeting all of Reyna's military friends was an adventure.
Shaking his head in disgust, he said they made him try oysters.
"'You're a Marine now,'" he said they joked.
Reyna, who said she spent a lot of time counseling younger service members, would most likely have some encouragement for Rubio.
The now world-traveler said she was scared of flying before joining the Marine Corps.
"We have so many fears. We limit ourselves. It's all really just a challenge," she said before diving back into the well-deserved margarita.