Hispanic Heritage Month: From Army National Guard to Veteran Service Officer, the Path of Rick Gloria

Loading

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15), the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs is sharing stories from the state’s and nation’s military and cultural history, including profiling individual Hispanic American veterans and family members.

From Army National Guard to Veteran Service Officer, the Path of Rick Gloria

Growing up in Texas, Mexico and Idaho, Rick Gloria had never envisioned a career in the military for himself — and indeed, when he first enlisted, he feared he had made a terrible mistake. A cross country star runner and state champion wrestler in high school, it was the competitive and physical nature of the military environment that initially appealed to him.

But during basic training, he admitted there were times he regretted enlisting. He was homesick, missed his family and two young children and kept asking himself, “Why did I do this?” At 21 years old, Gloria was one of the oldest recruits there, though his athleticism and physical training put him near the top of his class.

What kept him going was the financial security and benefits it provided for his family, after a lifetime of working long hours at various part-time jobs and barely scraping by. Gloria stuck with it, and in May 1989, he graduated basic training to begin a full-time job for the Oregon Army National Guard as a unit administrator, operating military systems such as the M109 self-propelled howitzer and the M1A1 Abrams Tank.

Eight years later, Gloria earned his commission as an officer and, upon completion of the infantry officer basic course, was given a new assignment with the 2nd Battalion of the 162nd Infantry Division of the Oregon Army National Guard.

For two years, Gloria became a rifle platoon leader for an infantry company. He later deployed with the battalion to Hokkaido, Japan, to conduct cold-weather training with the Japanese Army. He was later assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment and spent several years as a company commander in eastern Oregon.

In June 2002, Gloria had begun teaching military science at Eastern Oregon University, when the stint was cut short because his battalion was mobilized for deployment to Iraq. On July 4, 2004, the battalion and Gloria mobilized and deployed to Fort Bliss, Texas, to conduct their training prior to their 18-month deployment.

Gloria’s duties in Iraq included seeing to the needs of his soldiers as well as taking care of their families. During the deployment, Gloria and his chaplain conducted 11 notifications to the next of kin for fallen service members — something he said was the hardest thing he ever had to do.

Gloria’s service to the Oregon Army National Guard ultimately spanned 22 years. He retired on April 1, 2009, as a lieutenant colonel. And, despite his initial apprehensions, he remains intensely proud of his service to his country.

“I do not regret anything that I did,” he said. “And if I had to do it all again, I would not hesitate.”

But, he found he still wanted to serve, so he underwent the training to become a certified veteran service officer, a role he now plays in rural Baker County.

“After serving for 22 years, I still had the passion to help support veterans from all the branches,” Gloria said. “In retrospect, I am so glad I accepted the Baker County VSO position. I tell my wife that I finally found my dream job: I get to help make a difference in people’s lives.”

To locate veteran benefit services and resources near you, visit the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ website at www.oregon.gov/odva/services/Pages/default.aspx.

Visits: 193