PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (March 18, 2022) – Nearly 200 service members at the Presidio of Monterey have paid tribute to an installation bus driver by giving him a name tape to display inside his bus.
Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Robert “Gunny” Enriquez started “Gunny’s Wall of Fame” with only three name tapes three months ago, and it has grown exponentially since then. Most of Enriquez’s passengers are students from all branches of the military attending the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.
“It really shows how much we mean to him,” said Airman 1st Class Sebastian Peralta, who is assigned to the 314th Training Squadron and gave Enriquez one of his name tapes. “I think it’s a way of us showing how much he means to us by kind of immortalizing ourselves on the bus.”
On weekdays, seven shuttle buses rotate to help students get from place to place during peak hours. Enriquez has driven a bus on post for about eight years, and before that, he served in the Marine Corps for 22 years. Other decorations on the bus—Marine Corps stickers, challenge coins and stuffed animals—make it clear he takes pride in his service.
Enriquez enlisted in the Marine Corps directly after he graduated from nearby Seaside High School in 1971. He served as a crew chief on CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and served in Hawaii, Africa, Korea, Guam and Okinawa.
He loves his job as a bus driver, Enriquez said, because he enjoys being around military personnel. He was born at Fort Benning, Georgia, and grew up as a military brat in Hawaii and California. His father was a drill sergeant at the former Fort Ord and he treasures his time in the Marine Corps.
“I owe my life to the Marine Corps,” Enriquez said. “I wasn’t going down the right path before I joined the Marine Corps. I was messing up in high school, and luckily I graduated, and the day I graduated I went straight into the Marine Corps.”
Not only does Enriquez cherish his time in service, he wants the service members to know he values their service as well. The Wall of Fame is a tribute, he said.
“I appreciate them for doing everything that they’re going through,” Enriquez said. “Not only are they trained to become linguists, but they also have their military obligations to fulfill while they’re here. I admire them. I commend them. They have a full plate of responsibility.”
Service members said they gave Enriquez name tapes because they appreciate the way he treats them and because the Wall of Fame boosts morale.
“Sometimes, especially after a long day of classes—it can be pretty brutal—and just knowing that your name is up there is a little, ‘Hey, that’s me. That’s my bus,’” said Airman Johnathen Sanchez of the 314th Training Squadron.
Peralta noted that when an Airman with a broken leg got on the bus and Enriquez cheerfully greeted him—and made sure he had plenty of time to get to his seat—it was typical behavior for Enriquez.
“He’s always willing to say, ‘Hi,’” Peralta said. “Just like when that Airman with the broken leg walked past, he was, ‘Hey, what’s up? How are you doing?’ He’s very interactive and very fun.”
Airman Andrew Martz of the 314th Training Squadron also contributed his name tape and said he appreciates how Enriquez treats everyone.
“Gunny just has a really special energy about him,” Martz said. “First of all, every other bus driver you call him ‘sir,’ but Gunny, we all call him ‘Gunny.’ He’s just Gunny, I guess. He’s always really friendly coming up on the bus, and just by seeing this up on the wall, you can see there’s a real appreciation there.”
Brian Clark, director of the PoM Logistics Readiness Center and a former logistics officer in the Air Force, said he gave Enriquez a name tape from his time in the Air Force in hopes that others would do the same. The display is a great morale builder, he said, and it’s exciting to see how many people have participated.
“Gunny is very popular with PoM’s service members and hopes to bring joy to those that ride his bus,” Clark said. “Gunny’s positive attitude and his name-tape display are a welcome and fun distraction from the stressful day that all service members experience while attending DLI.”
Enriquez said he wants to help the students as much as possible because he appreciates that they volunteered to serve their country. By helping the students he continues to serve his country.
“Once they start riding my bus enough, I get to know them,” Enriquez said. “I get to know the students. I know when they’re down and out or there’s something bothering them. So then I ask them, ‘Are you OK?’ Because when they’re not their normal self, something’s wrong, so I ask them.”
For example, a Marine Corps Teddy bear on Enriquez’s dashboard is from a former student he helped. The student told him she was having trouble with her Arabic classes and was thinking about quitting. Enriquez told her, “Just take it a day at a time and do the best you can every day. That’s all they can ask of you.”
She did exactly that, and after she passed her classes, she presented Enriquez with the bear to say thank you.