Born Orlando Perez Sanchez, Tony Perez, as he is better known now, is the 597th Transportation Brigade (Fort Eustis, Virginia) supply specialist and a former Army unit supply specialist. He has more than 35 years of combined military and civil service and is a retired sergeant major. Originally from Rincon, Puerto Rico, Perez and his family, which includes nine brothers and six sisters, came to the United States at age 9 and lived in New York and New Jersey growing up. He joined the Army in June 1980.
Q: What made you want to join the Army?
A: I didn't want to get caught up in the streets. At that time, I didn't feel like school was for me. I was following (the footsteps of) three of my older brothers. I also have a few nephews and nieces that joined the military. I have many relatives that joined the service.
Q: How long were you in the Army and what were a few of your most prominent assignments?
A: I was in for 28 years with no break in service. Most of my time was spent with the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps (Fort Bragg, North Carolina). My last assignment was at Fort Hood, Texas.
Q: How did you end up at Fort Eustis, Virginia? How do you like your job?
A: After I retired out of Fort Bragg, I accepted a job here at the 597th Transportation Brigade as a supply specialist in September 2009. At that time, it was the best thing for me. My daughter (Madeline) was close (Washington, D.C.). This job is awesome -- being a supply specialist. It's something I love to do. I'm also a facility manager. I like to take care of people. A lot of people think the supply job is easy, just issuing stuff out, but you have to get it here first. I like the system. I've always been fascinated by the process.
Q. How much influence has your family had in your life and career?
A: My family is a big part of my life -- very supportive. I'm the third youngest of my siblings. We range in age from 50-72. My wife, Anita, is a big supporter of me. She's been with me throughout my military career. We've been married 35 years. I met her when we were stationed in Germany and I always tell people that she's also from New Jersey -- 69 miles separated us, but we met 5,000 miles away. Madeline is pursuing her Master's Degree at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). My family is one of the main reasons I stayed in the service.
Q: How often do you reflect on your Hispanic heritage and how important is it you?
A: It's very important. Growing up, we lived in poverty. It was a struggle day to day. I saw how my mother and siblings struggled. I did not want to have my children go through that. I always reflect back. I have never forgotten where I came from.
Q: How often do you get to see your family?
A: The family gets together twice a year. We try to have a reunion every four years. It's an awesome experience. If you were to be invited to one of our family get-togethers, you would want to go back. If you were to date one of my nieces and break up, you'd still want to come back. They break up and still come to gatherings. It's the togetherness, the bonding and heritage that brings them back. It's the tightness of the group -- Puerto Ricans in general. Puerto Ricans, no matter where you go, seek out other Puerto Ricans. When you have a big family, there is a lot of drama, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
Q: How much do you reflect on your time in the Army?
A: To this day, even with seven years of civil service, there are still times I feel like I'm in the Army. I still run PT (physical training) like I'm in the Army. I do the same job I did in the Army. It hasn't changed from when I was in. Everything's the same.
Q: What are a few of your hobbies?
A: Running, that's what I know how to do. I work out at least three to four times per week. I always did sports in the military -- boxing and baseball. I'm very competitive. I hate to come in second. I go hard. I had a lot of injuries because of that.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: By far, it's the Shawshank Redemption. For some reason, it sticks with me.
Q: What's something people don't know about you?
A: You'd think I look intimidating until you get to know me. Just the appearance -- the rugged look and shaved head.
Q: What defines who you are?
A: There are three things that I always tell people about me. I'm proud of my immediate family -- that I have 15 siblings. I've been married to Anita for 35 years and I achieved the rank of sergeant major. Those are three things that I'm proud of that I tell people about me.