FORT HOOD, Texas- She has a welcoming smile, and a shy voice. But ask her what she expects for her son's future and she gets a little excited.
"I want him to be a commander one day, a real big boss!"
Paramount, Calif., native Maria Guadalupe Najera is the mother of Spc. Rigoberto Saenz, who also hails from Paramount. She, along with Saenz's sister, his fiancAfAe and his son, flew half way across the country to be with him as he took the next step of his career by re-enlisting in the Army. Najera closed her photo studio business for a few days just to see her son reenlist.
In a ceremony, held at the Fort Hood Hunt and Saddle Stables, Saenz, who is a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic for Company F, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, sat on a cavalry horse while he raised his right hand for a second time. Mother Maria and fiancAfAe Evelyn Sandoval smiled and clapped as he spoke the words that would give the Army six more years of his life.
Saenz has already served his nation for three and a half years. He spent 15 months in Iraq where he worked patrols, drove recovery tanks and worked on vehicles used in the desert to recover vehicles damaged or destroyed while carrying out missions.
Chicago, Ill., native Sgt. 1st Class Keith Johnson, retention noncommissioned officer for 2nd Bn., 5th Cav. Regt., said in his time in the Army he had never known a family to fly out for a re-enlistment ceremony.
"We usually don't see parents for a re-enlistment unless they live close by," said Johnson. "I haven't experienced this before. His family must be really proud of him to come this far."
Saenz will be closer to home in a few short weeks. His next duty station is Fort Irwin, Calif. His fiancAfAe is happy that he will be closer to home.
"Its hard being so far from him, we miss him, it's going to be good to have him where we can see more of him," said Sandoval. "We need to plan our wedding when he gets closer to home."
Before enlisting in the Army in late 2004, Saenz was in danger of running up against the police. He enlisted to create a new life for himself.
"How can I explain it," he said. "I was almost a criminal. I would have gone to jail but instead I enlisted in the Army. It gave my family and me a new life."
Najera was so proud of his accomplishment that she and the rest of her son's immediate family couldn't wait for him to get to Fort Irwin.
"I am proud of my son, he has worked so hard for this," said Najera. "He will have a great life and we wanted to be here to see this."
Najera is smiling because of her son's achievements but there is other news that makes her even happier. She is becoming a grandmother. Saenz and his fiancAfAe Evelyn are having a baby, a happening that makes Saenz blush.
Najera also wore a blushing smile as she was presented a certificate of appreciation by Capt. Devin Burns, commander of Co. F, 2nd Bn, 5th Cav. Regt. Saenz also presented his mother with a cased, folded flag.
Saenz's ceremony marked the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division's 500th re-enlistment for Fiscal Year 2008.