EASTON — Of all the weapons in the United States military’s arsenal, former Air Force Air Traffic Control Specialist Eloy Reyes, 39, of Easton said his most valuable armament while he was deployed was his wife’s unending strength on the home front.
During his two deployments assisting with Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Reyes said the support of his wife, Inaleen Reyes, beamed overseas, allowing him to stay focused on his job.
From taking care of their two sons, Romeo and Romell, and keeping their family safe, to sending care packages and ensuring her husband felt loved almost 7,000 miles away — Inaleen deserves “all the credit for holding it down,” he said.
“The military spouse is one of the most important things that people don’t notice,” Reyes said. “If it wasn’t for the spouse back home taking care of the home front, we as airmen or soldiers would be constantly worried about our families.”
“When we’re deployed, the spouse has to take on both roles, being the mom and the dad, the comforter and taking care of the children, as far as like explaining to the young ones what’s really going on,” he said. “(Telling them) ‘Don’t worry, mom or dad will be back,’ and sending the letters, the care packages and what not — just keeping the family together while we’re (deployed).”
Reyes emphasized Inaleen’s strength, recounting a time when a neighbor who lived behind their home was harassing her and “throwing pennies at the window to get her attention.”
For the safety of her family, Inaleen took the initiative to pack up and move to a different home, all while Reyes was deployed in the Middle East.
“(Inaleen) said, ‘I don’t feel safe,’ and when I’m not there to protect my family, it’s kind of like, what do I do?” he said. “But she got away, and it was a huge decision. She was so strong to make big decisions like that.”
But when Inaleen wasn’t fending off bad guys, Reyes said she constantly was preparing and sending care packages to him overseas with enough goodies to feed an Air Force.
“My roommate and I both had bunk beds with empty top beds and all my snacks were on the top bunks, just full of snacks, and I just shared it with everybody else in the dorm,” he said. “People would come to my room and ask me for snacks, and I’d be happy to give them away because (Inaleen) always sent them.”
Reyes said he was “definitely spoiled” by Inaleen’s gift-giving. In fact, he said it was so consistent that “you could always count on me getting a package whenever packages would come in.”
“It came to the point where the people in the tower were like, ‘I’m not going to give you your packages anymore,’ because they knew there was good stuff in there,” he said. “It was like a store in my room.”
Inaleen sent more than material goods, though, Reyes said. She would send pictures of his photo in different places, symbolizing his presence during important moments, like by the Christmas tree during the holidays.
“I have seen families fall apart while I’m (overseas) with other airmen, but I didn’t really feel that stress of things falling apart at home,” he said. “(Inaleen) made everybody feel as if I’m still there, keeping my presence still at the house.”
Reyes said his wife was no stranger to a military lifestyle, crediting that to both her father’s and grandfather’s service in the U.S. military — plus, her relationship with Reyes’ father, who also served and was her father’s best friend.
Even after returning from his deployments and taking up a career in civilian air traffic control at Easton Airport in 2014, he said the Reyeses have no intention of discontinuing their family’s military affiliations.
Their active-duty son, Airman 1st Class Romeo Reyes, is stationed in San Diego, following in his father’s Air Force footsteps. Reyes said he plans to encourage others to join the military, as well.
“Honestly, I tell people, ‘I know you might think the military is not for you, because I was the same exact way,’ but the military is the best decision I ever made,” Reyes said. “We have the opportunity here in the United States to do and be whatever we want. You just have to put in the work to get it.”