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Castillo vets value family

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The Castillo family gathered this week to support a brother holding a ribbon-cutting for a new business and ended up leading floats in Saturday’s Veteran’s Day parade in Hobbs.

They came from as far away as the Pentagon, from Dallas, from Madison, Ala., and from as close as just down the street.

With three of Guadalupe and Socorro Castillo’s children retired from U.S. military service, counting a combined total of 86 years in the Army and Navy, participation in the Hobbs parade seemed natural.

The ribbon-cutting for Two States Towing, originally set for Friday, was postponed when owner and brother Javier Castillo tested positive for COVID-19, but that didn’t stop the Castillos from joining hands to do something great together.

Lt. Cmdr. Joel Castillo, who retired from the Navy in 2018 after 28 years (about a month from being 29 years, he pointed out), said Javier had called and said, “‘Hey, I need you guys to come and support me,’ and we didn’t hesitate.”

Back in 2018, most of the family had traveled from Hobbs to the Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., for Joel’s retirement ceremony, and their father could find that would accept undocumented immigrants in the school system. There were nine children at the time, aged 4-17.

The family had tried to settle in Pecos and Monahans, but the Texas towns had schools that didn’t accept children unless they were legal citizens. The school distinct in Hobbs allowed the children to attend school.

“Quickly learning the language and excelling in school, I was very proud of all of them because they did it,” Sally said. “Fast forward to their careers and each one of them has been very successful in their own right. The older we get, I think, the more we see the importance of staying tight, staying connected.”

All the Castillo siblings — three women and five men — graduated from Hobbs High School, and all the family members who were not born in the United States have become naturalized citizens.

Jose and Alicia became citizens while they were in the Army because only U.S. citizens can re-enlist.

Alicia became the first to enlist immediately out of high school.

Asked why she enlisted, Alicia said, “A sense of adventure. I always saw myself as doing something other than staying here in Hobbs.” She gave her high school teacher Joe Calderon credit for influencing her into believing she could do more.

After 27 years in the Army, including commanding troops in Iraq, Alicia retired in 2014 as a command sergeant major, the highest non-commissioned rank in all the U.S. armed services.

Now living in Dallas, Alicia said she often comes home for “my family in Hobbs America. Over the years, we’ve gotten closer, so when anyone asks for support, no one hesitates. Our brother Javier wanted us to help him open Two States Towing, so we came originally for him.”

She acknowledges that while she’s out in the world, being strong and rising in rank, she exhibits an outgoing personality. Things change when she’s around family, though.

“I’m still just the little sister,” Alicia laughed. “Over the years, regardless how big I got in rank or how powerful I got overall, they kinda grounded me when I got home. They go, hey, you’re our little sister.”

As a veteran, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Alicia Castillo said her career included service in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but she demurred from further military discussion saying, “I’m most humble, so my career speaks for itself.”

Jose Castillo, now age 56 and just three years older than Alicia, followed her into the U.S. Army, also retiring as a command sergeant major in 2019 after 31 years of service.

“In one word, our mother is the center of the family. She’s the constant that keeps us all in focus,” Jose said. “She shows us by example how a family unit should conduct itself.

“From humble beginnings, most of us born in Mexico, we came here given this opportunity in America. We struggled like everybody else. The good thing about our mother and father is they never allowed us to go astray,” Jose continued.

He said he used concepts of his family and other loved ones in Hobbs as examples when he encouraged his troops to be their best, imagining those loved ones are watching.

Now residing in Madison, Ala., Jose said he also came to Hobbs to support Javier’s ribbon-cutting, with the intent of setting a standard of quality for those events.

“We missed that opportunity, but there was nothing we could do,” Jose said, adding the family then decided to build a float and join the Veteran’s Day parade.

Like his sister, Jose demurred from reminiscing much of his military life.

“Definitely, my better years were serving this country,” Jose said.

On family, he added, “We support and enable each other. … We are 100 percent in each other’s corners and there’s nothing I could accomplish without their encouragement, love and support. And they have a way of keeping us in check.”

Socorro Castillo said she is very proud of her children, using the Spanish word “fuerte” — with an untranslatable strength to the meaning of “strong” — to describe how she has become while helping her children grow and become who they are, including those serving around the world in the military.

“I have a lot of good kids,” the matriarch said after describing her years of hard work to raise them.

Sally emphasized how each member of the family is proud of each other for any accomplishment. “Regardless of the accomplishment, we are proud,” she said.

Sister Angel Castillo talked about having the family together, “Oh, man, it’s amazing. It’s a blessing. Even if it’s just for a five-minute lunch, I love it.”

About the veteran siblings, Angel and Sally both expressed pride, noting their service also helped them to spread their wings to visit places they otherwise would never have seen.

“We’ve all been to D.C. already,” Sally said. “I was excited. I never thought I’d get to see anywhere but Hobbs.”

Brother Jaime Castillo, a production foreman in the oilfield, added, “With the siblings all over the world one of my deals was to make sure they knew the family was taken care of here … What they were doing for the country, we were doing here for the family They knew that mom and dad were being taken care of here.”

Joining the interview by telephone due to his positive COVID-19 test, Javier said “Family is very important to me. I love them all. We have a very strong bond as family. I’m very proud to have all my siblings and my beautiful mother with us and my dad’s in heaven and watching right now and he’s very proud of us.”

For the Castillos, it’s all about family.

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