December’s Military Hero

J.R. Pena is this month's Military Hero

VICTORIA, Texas – J.R. Pena is this month’s military hero. J.R. joined the Navy right out of high school heading off to boot camp just two weeks after graduation from Lolita High School. J.R. excelled in high school athletics even competing in state for track so boot camp was somewhat of a breeze for J.R. as he was already well trained for the physical demands of being in the military. J.R. was assigned to work on the flight deck, which he says is a dangerous job that requires attention to detail.

“You see a lot of videos about the most dangerous jobs in the world, well the flight deck, it’s one of them,” says Pena.

JR describes the Navy aircraft carrier as essentially a floating airport, so working flight deck there is a lot going on, on a relatively small space.

“It’s very intimidating, you know how you drive you’ve got a little white line that keeps you and the other car on different sides of the road, it’s the same thing, there’s a bunch of lines on the flight deck, and at any time you cross one at the wrong time, it’s life or death. It’s pretty crazy you got to keep your head on a swivel, it’s attention to details,” says Pena.

The carrier had around 70 to 80 aircraft, carrying aircraft like the Hornet, Super Hornet, and J.R.’s favorite the Tomcat, all of these planes coming in handy for the missions J.R. was assigned to while in the Navy, serving during Operation Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom. At times, being in foreign waters was an intense affair.

“We went to Hong Kong, and we were isolated to one strip of the street, and we had our military police and they had theirs, and so it was weird, they didn’t want us there. So we had our ship and we were literally surrounded by two or three hundred mini boats,” says Pena.

Since the Navy, J.R. has worked in the justice system working for the sheriff’s department and the prison system, and also enjoys spending time with his loved ones, such as his girlfriend and their children, all living a pretty active lifestyle with his son playing football and his daughters involved with soccer. J.R. hopes to finish his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and keep an eye out for J.R. on the ballot, as he one day hopes to one day be an elected official.

“I think ultimately, I think later, later down the road, I’d like to be an elected official, maybe a judge. Later down the road when I finish all my degree and I check off all the things on my list for experience,” says Pena.