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Marine returns home to start career

Profile image for Dimitrios Aerts/For the Denton Record-Chronicle
Dimitrios Aerts/For the Denton Record-Chronicle

“The Few, The Proud, The Marines.”

That’s the motto 2011 Denton High School graduate Ricky Pena took when he decided to devote himself to his country as a Marine.

Now, two years later, in addition to peacekeeping overseas, he works as a detention officer for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office. He hopes to further his criminal justice experience into becoming a U.S. Marshal and hunt for America’s most wanted.

And he thanks Denton High for his success.

“I learned heart,” Pena said. “Above all the other schools, we don’t quit no matter how bad the circumstances look.”

Pena was in a number of activities during his years in high school, including football, Interact and Key Club.

“I had great teachers,” he said. “They helped me decide what should come after high school.”

His family also supports him greatly in what he does. His brother, senior Jose Pena, talks about his experience with a Marine in the family.

“We live together, so I see him all the time,” Jose Pena said. “He always talks about the Marines and how fun it is.”

April Pena, a cousin, said she is proud of his career choice.

 “Having a family member in the Marines is something to be proud of,” April Pena said.

Recently, Ricky Pena returned from Senegal for military purposes and talked about how some of those experiences affected him.

“At one point, a bus hit a lady in the road and didn’t even stop to check on her,” he said. “The lady just got up and walked away.”

He said this showed him he was in the right field.

“Seeing a real third-world country affected me greatly,” he said. “People always say how good we have it here, but you don’t really know until you see for yourself.”

Next, Ricky Pena will be enduring rigorous training in the tundra of Alaska.

Being away from his family for so long has opened his eyes to how important family is.

“That’s another thing the military has taught me,” he said. “I have a family to come home to, and that really motivates you when you’re out in the desert.”

He says he really enjoys the training and character-building that he must go through in the military, but the physical toll it has put on him is a difficult price to pay.

“The fighting, night vision, machine guns, I mean you don’t get to do that stuff every day,” he said. “But now the doctor says I have plantar fasciitis, which pretty much means my arches are broken.”

However, Ricky Pena continues to train and serve his country as best he can with overwhelming support from his family and friends, especially his sister Carrie Pena’s words of encouragement.

“She says things to me like ‘get outta here ya dumb kid, I don’t want you to come back,’ which pretty much means I’m still her favorite brother.” Ricky Pena said.

DIMITRIOS AERTS is a senior at Denton High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” writing program for student journalists.