By Staff Sgt. ShaTyra Reed-Cox
A father can be the most important influence in a boy’s life. He is the first example of what it means to be a man, and the lessons he passes on can stick with his son for life.
The lessons Spc. Armando Estrada learned from his father, Armando Estrada Sr., helped shape the man he grew up to be and prepared him for his future profession: a soldier in the United States Army.
“I didn’t need to be taught how to take care of fellow soldiers because my dad taught me how to treat others,” said Armando, a utilities equipment repairer with Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army South. “He taught me that there is always a way to help people.”
Armando learned key lessons from his father. Armando Sr. was an immigrant from Mexico as well as a hardworking, single father of three boys. He taught Armando and his two brothers to never give up because you never know just how much you can change someone’s life.
His father’s teachings centered around respect and helping others who are less fortunate. That assistance doesn’t always hold monetary value, sometimes it comes in the value of a helping hand.
“My father gave more than he took. He didn’t have much, but he always gave what he could,” Armando explained. “If he didn’t have money or food to give away, he provided his labor.”
After joining the Army, Armando said he quickly realized many of the values he learned growing up in a Mexican household were the same values expected of U.S. soldiers, such as working as a team, doing your fair share of work and having each other’s backs.
“I’ve been taught by my father that if something needs to be done, do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Armando said. “His teachings stick with me every day as a soldier.”
His father’s teachings of family values are an important part of Armando’s heritage and life. That extends to the family he’s gained while living on Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
“They’ve opened my eyes to new experiences,” Armando said, smiling from ear to ear. “Here it’s a second family.”
It’s been 10 years since Armando’s father passed. Despite the years, the memory of him and the life lessons he shared have never faded.
“It brings me joy that I am doing something that he would be proud of,” said Armando.
Armando continues to honor his father every year during Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
This Mexican holiday is a festivity to honor death, the afterlife and life itself. It’s one of the most meaningful and foundational national symbols of Mexican identity. Each year, Mexican families welcome back the souls of their departed family members to meet again.
His father loved spicy food so Armando makes it his mission every year to prepare his father’s favorite dishes and match his tolerance level of spiciness.
“The reason why I love the holiday is because we all come to celebrate them even though they aren’t around anymore,” he said. “We get to do the things they loved to do but can’t do anymore.”
Armando, humble and heartfelt, described his father without hesitation as selfless and the family provider. His strong work ethic and uncompromising dedication to the family was his daily gift to his kid.
“Motivation was never lacking. He inspired me to work hard because he made it easier on us,” Armando said. “I want to show him that his life wasn’t in vain.”
How the USO Helps Soldiers Like Armando on Fort Sam Houston
While away from family and loved ones, soldiers like Armando stationed at Fort Sam Houston can find a place of comfort and connection at USO JBSA, located at Fort Sam Houston.
Here, as in most other 250+ USO locations around the world, members of the military community can take advantage of all the free amenities that USO Centers have to offer, including Wi-Fi, snacks, coffee, games and couches to crash on during their downtime.
Regardless of where Armando’s military career takes him, he can rest assured that the USO will always be there every step of the way. Thanks to our generous supporters and USO volunteers, who will always have his back, he will have the support of the American people through every step of his military journey.
-This story was originally published on DVIDShub.net. It has been edited and expanded for USO.org.
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