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The Decision of a Lifetime

Juliana Guerra, contributor

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Juliana Guerra is a senior here at Sahuaro. For Mr. Robinson’s class, she had to interview someone about how they chose their career path.  She picked her grandfather, who served in the Air Force for 20 years. “He is very humble and a personal person but he taught me a lot of things as a child,” Juliana reported. Her grandfather read her story and, still stoic, he told her “good job”, but then told her father how proud he is of her. 

In the hot summer days of 1952, Antonio looked for a part time job anywhere. He would often help load and unload railroad train cars. Antonio was born in Edinburg, Texas on April 15, 1940. Growing up was hard for Antonio and his two older siblings. Their parents were both laborers before their father volunteered to go into army to help our country. His sister was the oldest and the first to dropout of school to get a job to help bring in money. After his father got out of the Army, he was killed by a befriended immigrant. Antonio’s sister got married and ran away, leaving him and his brother with their ill mother and no source of income.

At the time Antonio’s sister ran away, his older brother knew he had to step up and he dropped out of school. Antonio was now the only child left in school and would be the only one to complete it. He wanted to drop out with his brother but his brother was willing to sacrifice his education in order for Antonio to graduate and get out of their small town. In fact his brother wasn’t old enough to work but a kind man knew his story and wanted to help them out so he hired him. During this time, Antonio saw that “It was hard to get ahead when we needed money, but we worked harder to make sure we had money to make the bills and pay the bills.”

Antonio grew up in Harlingen, Texas at the time of all these tragedies. Life for Antonio was “Very very… It was hard.” They now had to survive off what his brother was bringing in for the three of them. Antonio saw that “there weren’t any good paying jobs” in his town, especially none that required just a high school diploma. He also noticed that after the kids would graduate they wouldn’t do anything with their lives. They would stand around the pool holes and bars all day with no jobs drinking their problems away. It was at that point he realized he didn’t want to become one of those guys and he joined the military.

He and two of his buddies went to a recruiter and joined the Air Force. It was hard for him to leave his family but they knew, and so did he, that it was because of the poor job situations. After joining, he would send most of his money to his mother and brother back home. He was first stationed at Walker AFB in Roswell, New Mexico after he finished basic training at Lackland AFB in Texas. While in the military he went all over the world including Azores Island, French Morocco, Spain, Germany, Montana, Puerto Rico, Guam, Kansas, South Korea and finally Arizona. He was never exposed to war as in fighting in it, but he supported what his country was fighting for. Antonio said Germany and French Morocco were the most dangerous places he had been. He was in Germany for a TDY when Kennedy was shot, so the base made them stand guard 24/7 around the perimeter. They had rifles with them, “Even though it was snowing like crazy, we had to stand outside the gate if someone attacked.” Although Antonio has been across the world, and has seen many places, he has learned many different cultures and met many different people. “Everywhere I went was very interesting, it’s something that you never saw before.” He always tried to leave friends behind, not enemies. He never looked for trouble but “I never backed down if I had to.” While in El Paso in 1963, he met my grandmother, Maria, who lived in Juarez, Mexico.

At this time he did have family and it was always hard to leave them. He missed them because they had to stay behind while he went away. When talking about his wife, “She had to be a mother and father while I was away, it was hard for her and me. In the military not only are you there for your country but for your wife because she does stuff that I can’t do from far away.” Antonio is very grateful that Maria, his wife, put all her time and energy in raising his kids while he served our country. She never complained and was a full time mother that had no time to get an actual job because this was more important. After 20 years and 10 days, in 1980, Antonio retired from the military.

Antonio also retired with the city of Tucson, county, after 20 years and 2 and a half months. He worked in the prison and saw many different things. After retirement from both jobs, he didn’t really have many hobbies so he did yard work around his house. After the yard work was too much for him, and his tired body, his daughters hired landscapers for him. When asked if he would change anything about his life he said, “Overall if I had to do my life over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. We had 8 kids, 5 great grand kids, and we always try to teach them to do the right things.”

My grandfather is my role model, and my inspiration. He has overcome so many obstacles and has done great things for our country, Antonio Guerra is my hero.


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The Decision of a Lifetime