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Friday, Feb 22 2013 12:01 AM

Hometown Hero: Judy Reynaga West, U.S. Army

Compiled by Marissa Lay

Judy Reynaga West served for decades in the U.S. Army. Today, she is a school teacher at Sequoia Elementary in Shafter.

Age: 48

Former assignment: Sgt. First Class, transportation specialist and instructor.

During my time, I was stationed at: Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Iraq; Kuwait; and various assignments throughout the United States.

I was in the Army for: Nearly 23 years.

Why I joined: For the education benefits.

My greatest military accomplishment: Being an instructor of the basic training cycle while training Iraqi troops.

What I liked most about being in the Army: The opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds.

My favorite memory in the Army: Returning to the United States, and being welcomed by a group of World War II veterans. We arrived at about 2 a.m. and a group of vets greeted us and thanked us for our service. I felt very honored.

What I learned while being deployed: I learned to value my freedom, and to always be thankful for the work my fellow soldiers are doing to ensure our freedom. I've also learned to appreciate the work the veterans who fought before us, and what they've done to keep our country free.

Valuable advice I learned in the Army: Take care of others first.

My greatest challenge was: Having to juggle between teaching and my duties in U.S. Army Reserves when I left active duty. It was not difficult going from being in the military to being a teacher. The Army taught me valuable leadership skills that transferred to my teaching job. I have good classroom management because of my military background.

What I missed most about Bakersfield, while being deployed: I missed baby carrots.

Favorite activities to do in Bakersfield: I like to go to the movies and restaurants at The Marketplace.

The first thing I did when I got home after deployment: I cried when I saw the light of Bakersfield as the plane was landing. I was so happy to be back; Bakersfield never looked so beautiful!

Something I'd like to accomplish this year: Visit the new Martin Luther King, Jr. monument in Washington, D.C.

-- Know a Kern County resident who has served, or is currently serving honorably in the military? Email us at bakersfieldlife@bakersfield.com with the message subject line: Hometown Hero. Please include an email, phone number and/or Facebook link to reach the nominee.

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