MISSION, Texas (KVEO) — Reynaldo Anzaldua is a Rio Grande Valley native. He joined the U.S. Air Force right out of high school in 1964 to fight in Vietnam.
“The work there was 24 hours most of the time and we rested very little,” he said. “We were always working.”
Anzaldua followed in the footsteps of other family members who served, but his primary motivation for joining was to learn how to fly.
“That’s basically what I joined the Air Force for, but I never flew in the Air Force, except to go from one place to another,” he said, laughing.
Later in life, he did obtain his pilot’s license. But while with the Air Force, he had an important task in combat support.
“Basically, what I did I just ordered things for the airplane like avionics, fuel, anything that would keep them flying,” said Anzaldua.
He says his time with the Air Force taught him discipline, how to work with others and to appreciate all he had. While the country did not warmly welcome him upon his return, his experience granted him other opportunities.
“The military helps in a lot of ways,” he said. “For one thing, it opened a lot of doors for me on the civilian side of it because I joined the U.S. Customs Service.”
Anzaldua worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection from 1969 to 2000, retiring as a customs supervisor and inspector. Through the G.I. bill, he was also able to attend college and graduate with a criminal justice degree, which opened even more doors for him.
“At the time I was the only special agent who could speak Spanish in the office, so I spent a lot of my time working in Mexico gathering intelligence,” he said.
The Anzaldua family’s veteran legacy has continued, with his son now working in the Naval Reserve.
In his retirement, Anzaldua spends time gardening and fighting against the border wall threatening his family’s land along the Rio Grande River in Mission.