When an 11-year-old Alfonso Flores was brought in front of a live television audience on the hit Puerto Rican children’s program “Cine Recreo,” he was asked by Spanish comedian Pacheco what he wanted to be when he grew up.
His answer was clear. He wanted to be a soldier like his father.
Now a sergeant first class, Flores serves as an information technology specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Born in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, his earliest memories of growing up included a firsthand look into the military lifestyle.
“By the time I was 7 years old, my family had lived in Puerto Rico, Germany and Texas,” Flores said. “I quickly realized what the life of a soldier entailed, as my dad was a no-nonsense infantryman who was tough as nails and taught us wrong is wrong while instilling discipline in us the old-fashioned way.”
Flores quickly learned from his straightforward father the importance of being a man and making a living from the “sweat off your brow,” as his dad would go on to receive the Purple Heart Medal twice, during conflicts in the Korean War before retiring after 20 years of Army service.
“My dad’s line of work outside the military was tough too, as it was construction,” Flores said. “Me and my siblings would go and help him in the construction business at a very young age. He definitely taught us the value of hard work and money.”
Upon graduating high school, Flores enrolled in college and began trying to figure out what direction he wanted to take his life into. It was there that a chance meeting with a friend would ultimately lead him to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“In college I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, so one day I ended up accompanying a friend who was going to take the (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery),” Flores said. “I had no intention of taking it myself but I ended up taking it and passed it with flying colors, so the Army offered me a job and I said why not.”
Enlisting as an active duty soldier in June 1981, Flores served as a telecommunications center operator at a variety of locations such as Camp Darby, Italy, Puerto Rico, Fort Ritchie, Md., and Rotterdam, Holland, where he served in civilian status. “I had a variety of amazing assignments,” Flores said. “The traveling and learning of other countries and different languages was great. At the same time, I had the peace of mind to know my family was being well taken care of.”
Serving a second time
After 11 years of active duty, Flores decided to exit the military where he had a 10-year break in service and continued raising his family back in Puerto Rico; that is, until the tragic events of 9/11.
“After that fateful day, I felt it was my patriotic duty to reenlist so I went to my Army Reserve recruiter in Puerto Rico to see if they needed an old timer like me,” Flores said. “At that time it was a simple plan to do nine additional years and retire at 20.”
Three deployments later, Flores has accumulated 23 years of service and is positioned to exit the military in January, while his middle son, Lionel’s, Army career is just beginning to bud as a soldier in the reserves.
“Lionel’s been a shower/laundry and clothing repair specialist with the 597th Quartermaster Company in Caguas, Puerto Rico, for about three years now,” Flores said. “He’s having a blast right now. I guess me telling him it’s a good life rubbed off on him after all.”
With the majority of citizens never volunteering to serve in the military, Flores said he feels honored for so many of his family members to have served.
“To describe the feeling I have for my family’s service in one word: Pride,” Flores said. “Less than two percent of Americans serve, yet my family has produced four. My father and brother both are retired infantrymen, I have one foot out the door, and my son has one foot in the door. We owe so much to the military; it’s truly been a great life.”
Now living in Copperas Cove, the same place where his father ended his 20-year career, Flores said if he could go back he wouldn’t change a thing.
“The military has evolved a lot, but some things remain the same: You never know how much you’re going to learn, where you’ll end up at, and what path it will help you take,” Flores said. “Now that I’m on my way out, I plan on catching the first flight back to Puerto Rico, growing my beard out, getting fat, and catching up on spear fishing.”