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57-year-old veteran called for duty
August 14,2004/The Monitor
McALLEN — He's 57 years old, afflicted with skin cancer, partially deaf and suffers from high blood pressure. But the U.S. Army still wants Master Sgt. Luis Jaime Treviño.
On July 14, the Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran received his third order to report to active duty — mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I was very shocked," Treviño said, a member of the Army's Individual Ready Reserve. IRRs are not part of a reserve unit, do not get paid and do not attend monthly reserve training. However, because of critical skills they possess, they can be recalled to duty if needed.
In disbelief, he called the Army hotline listed on his orders.
"Am I reading this thing right? At my age you still want me?" he asked.
But there was no mistake. Treviño is to report to a mobilization unit Sept. 15 at Fort Jackson, S.C. "If I do not execute these orders, I go to jail," he said.
Treviño, a Rio Grande City native, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, and then joined the Army reserves in 1972. The former middle school teacher also served during Desert Storm in 1991. And though Treviño is willing to serve again, he wonders why the military wants him.
"I'm honored to go, but I'm disabled and I'm too old," he said.
But the Army disagrees.
Reservists under the age of 60 are being activated, said Public Affairs Specialist Julia Collins of the Human Resources Command in St. Louis.
"I know many guys who are in that position," she said. "It's not unusual."
While Treviño's age does not disqualify him from serving, his medical condition may.
The U.S. Veteran's Administration considers Treviño 100 percent disabled because of the cancerous cells on his face and his bilateral hearing loss.
His middle left finger is bandaged, hiding the portion doctors removed on Thursday for a biopsy. He also takes medicine daily to control his blood pressure and hypertension.
However, the V.A. has no bearing on the Army's decision, so Treviño is requesting an exemption from the Delay and Exemption Board.
Collins said the delay and exemption board will review Treviño's request for an exemption along with a doctor's verification of his medical condition. Medical conditions are evaluated on a case by case basis.
"Because it sounds like he has medical issues, it will probably go to surgeon's office for review," she said.
The delay and exemption board will then make a recommendation, the legal department will review it. The commander will make a final ruling as to whether Treviño will go to Iraq, she said.
"Obviously they intend not to send people who have severe medical conditions," she said. "We have to send soldiers that are physically fit to serve their country."
Though his physical health is less than sterling, Treviño thinks the Army may need his expertise. Treviño is a refueling specialist, an expert in petroleum, oils and lubricants.
"The Army is going to try to keep me there. Sergeants are very high in demand," he said.
Collins agreed that Treviño's skill is needed.
"That definitely would be something that would be sought after, especially when transportation and supply routes are important," she said.
Treviño's military pride is evident in his North McAllen home. Photographs taken of Treviño in his Air Force and Army Reserve uniforms adorn the walls and he converted a bedroom into a storage room for his hobby — model military airplanes.
He re-enlisted in the Individual Ready Reserve in 2003 because "I wanted to stay in for a hobby." However, he didn't anticipate being sent to active duty.
"If I have to go, I'll go. That's my job. I'm not a coward," he said. "The only concern I have is my skin cancer and my age. I'm pushing 58. I'm an old dingbat."
He also worries for his parents in Rio Grande City.
"My parents are honored for me to go. They are very proud of me," he said. "But they are concerned."