During the Memorial Day observance on May 31 at East Union Cemetery, it was announced that one of Manteca’s military sons, Staff Sgt. Jesse Reyes of the United States Army, had been wounded in Afghanistan.
Last Saturday, July 31, his family received the devastating news that he was, again, wounded – this time, seriously. He was on foot patrol with another American soldier in Baraki, Barak in Afghanistan when they were hit by a remote-controlled improvised explosive device, or IED. Reyes, who is on his third deployment in his eight years in the military, sustained serious injuries to his left leg and right shoulder.
The Airborne Ranger’s mother, Veronica Reyes, said Thursday night in a telephone interview from San Diego where her son is being treated at the naval hospital, that the family only had scant information at the moment on the extent of the soldier’s wounds and the treatment he will undergo.
She said she and her husband, Joseph Sr., and Jesse’s wife Heather, arrived at the hospital Thursday morning after driving all night from Manteca “just in time before his three-hour surgery.”
They have not been able to talk to any of the doctors since they arrived so they are not sure how long their son is going to be hospitalized, Veronica said.
“But he’s going to be evaluated daily by the surgeon; he’s in a good place,” said a tired Veronica.
She said that after the explosion, her son and the other soldier were both picked up by Medi-flight “out of danger” and transported to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. There, Jesse had surgery on his right shoulder and lower left leg. After that, he was flown to another military medical facility in Germany.
“From there, he was flown to a few different places until his final (hospital destination) in San Diego. He requested to come home to his family in California,” Veronica said.
Joining the Reyes family at the hospital on Thursday were the parents of the soldier’s wife, Tina and Kenny McDonald of Manteca, who also drove up to San Diego “to see Jesse,” Veronica said.
But before the extended family in Manteca even arrived at the naval hospital, Jesse’s brother, Joseph Jr., who is also an Army soldier stationed at Ft. Irwin which is a three-hour drive away from San Diego, was already at the Marine Corps’ air base in San Diego waiting for the arrival of his brother.
“He stayed with (Jesse) overnight at the naval medical center. And then on Wednesday morning, my husband and Jesse’s wife, Heather, and myself left Manteca for San Diego. We stayed in Barstow overnight and then in the morning (Thursday) we arrived in San Diego. We arrived just in time before he went in for surgery,” Veronica said.
While the family waits for more news about the soldier’s medical condition, they are temporarily staying at the Fisher House, a facility on the naval hospital grounds where wounded soldiers’ families can stay to be near their loved ones during their medical ordeal.
“We’ll just have to wait. We have a lot of support,” Veronica said, from many people in Manteca including Jane Braley, the grandmother of Christopher Braley, a Manteca soldier who was seriously wounded in Iraq, and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and Auxiliary in Manteca.
“Jane Braley has been supportive, the VFW family – post and auxiliary – has been supportive just by their prayers and words of comfort, and of course, family and friends,” Veronica said.
Veronica Reyes happens to be the president of the Manteca VFW Jimmie Connors Post 6311 Ladies Auxiliary. She was scheduled to speak at the May 31 Memorial Day ceremonies at East Union Cemetery when her family received word about her son being injured in Afghanistan.
Fortunately, she said, “the first injury was not that bad because he was protected by his chest plate. He had shrapnel to his neck, collar bone and hand. So he was treated – the shrapnel was supposed to come out on its own – and returned to the field.”
She said the other American soldier who was wounded with Jesse in Afghanistan sustained injuries that were similar to what her son sustained on May 31. “They were not too serious, and just like Jesse the first time he was injured, he was treated and put back into the unit,” she said.
Just last April, Jesse Reyes was able to secure a two-week R&R leave and came home to visit family in Manteca, celebrate his third wedding anniversary, and attend a niece’s baptism. The family took this opportunity to take plenty of family portraits. His wife, Heather, moved to Manteca from their “duty station” in Schweinfurt, Germany, to be with family here for the duration of his deployment in Afghanistan.
The soldier is an Airborne Ranger in the 173rd Airborne Brigade 1-91 CAV, Anvil Troop, 3rd Platoon. He completed his Ranger training in July 2009 in Fort Benning, Georgia.