2014 Marine of the Year
Master Sgt. Orlando Reyes
Whether deployed or in garrison, Master Sgt. Orlando Reyes works ceaselessly to protect his fellow Marines. After three combat deployments to Iraq, he returned home and picked up a tenacious fight against an enemy as deadly as an IED – suicide.
Reyes is now the operations chief for Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations – East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In addition to his primary duties, Reyes heads the command’s Never Leave a Marine Behind suicide prevention program.
He was nominated for Marine Corps Times Marine of the Year as much for the care he shows towards Marines in garrison as for his service in the war zone.
Reyes’ list of accomplishments is long. A few highlights include: leading Marine rifle and pistol teams to victory in Okinawa; being named recruiter of the year in 2003; leading the charge to raise $25,000 for a 2008 birthday ball that drove ticket prices down to just $10 each -- including open bar -- and earning a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with four stars for his steadfast dedication.
“Master Sergeant Reyes is passionate about being a Marine, enjoys mentoring junior Marines, provides sound guidance to peers and offers solid advice to seniors. In short, he exemplifies the core values of military service.”
Maj. Shawn D. Miller
He has left his greatest mark through his unyielding efforts as the top suicide prevention trainer on the East Coast. Reyes has certified at least 60 master trainers and 75 trainers since arriving at his current assignment in 2011 – all of whom work throughout the Corps to turn around the devastating suicide epidemic.
Driving him is his own experience with attempted suicide, an anecdote he uses to inspire students.
“A Marine was getting ready to deploy; he had marital problems and reached the breaking point. He decided to end the pain by swallowing a bottle of pills.
“That Marine stands here today,” he tells classes to convey the gravity of their mission.
As a result of Reyes’ work, interventions began occurring in cases that previously would have fallen through the cracks. Still, he remained unsatisfied and worked to create H&S Battalion’s own master trainer program.
Beyond suicide prevention, he takes great interest in the personal lives of his Marines, saying that although he is a senior leader, he wants his Marines to work for him “because they want to, not just because they have to.”
Just two courses shy of a bachelor’s degree in organizational management, Reyes says he wants his Marines to get ahead by taking on responsibilities commensurate with a rank above them, using every resource available for career and academic advancement.
The son and brother of soldiers, he joined the Corps in 1994 saying he didn’t want to join another service and wonder if he could have hacked it as a Marine.