By: Melody K. Morales, Contributing Writer.
Haines City - Today (November 11), the City of Haines City celebrated Veterans Day. During the event, the City recognized one special person. Meet the Haines City Veteran of the Year, our Founder and Editor-in-Chief Marielys Camacho-Reyes (M.C. Reyes)
Being a member of the U.S. Military involves a strong commitment to our country, its wellbeing and the responsibility to fight for our collective freedom. As a veteran, it also involves understanding that this commitment does not end once your service to your country has ended; it carries out into your community and everyday life.
SSG Marielys Camacho-Reyes’ military journey began in June of 1995 when she joined the 407 Medical Battalion unit in her hometown of Puerto Rico. Pursuant, she attended basic training in South Carolina and later moved on to AIT as a combat medic in San Antonio, Texas. Several years later, she was assigned to Special Operations Command South (SOCSouth) where she accomplished her duties as a human resources specialist in Homestead, FL. SSG. Camacho-Reyes served a total of 13 years in the U.S Army and fulfilled her commitment to her country in March of 2011. Although a veteran herself, she also proudly served her country as a military spouse alongside her husband, CW3 Alex Morales-Hernandez and her three children.
SSG Camacho-Reyes proudly represented the core values of the U.S. Army throughout her entire career. However, she firmly understood and believed that this commitment and responsibility did not end there. She was committed to making a difference in her community and wanted to continue upholding these values throughout her daily life. Upon returning to the United States following the completion of her husband’s service, Marielys and her husband settled down in Haines City, FL. She consistently searched for ways in which she could represent and assist Veterans in her community, as a means of carrying forward her promise to serve. Marielys was able to do this by joining a program called Vet Voices, which aimed at bringing awareness to the issues Veterans in our community face every day. She bridged the divide between service members and society by providing insight into the topics that are not always easy to talk about, but which are exponentially growing for our Veterans. Amongst these topics were the growing discussions on PTSD, depression, and suicide, which has accounted for hundreds of service-member lives’ in the U.S. The program proved to be a success, and Marielys promoted its existence through interviews with numerous media outlets, in hopes that other veterans seeking assistance or needing an outlet would come forward.
Yearning to leave an even greater impact on her community, Marielys began working on a project that would transform Polk County and the engagement of its residents. After months of hard work and dedicated efforts, The Northeast Polk Gazette was born and became the first non-profit news organization in the Polk County area. The Northeast Polk Gazette is a monthly editorial newspaper, of which every edition features a prominent thematic concern in our society. Some of the topics that these editions have covered, or will in the future, include Suicide Prevention Month, Breast Cancer Awareness, Hunger Awareness and Black History Month, amongst many others. Marielys’ goal with the creation of this organization was to: 1. Deliver insight on prominent community news and events that do not usually make the editions of larger news organizations, 2. Provide employment opportunities, as well as, a creative outlet for veterans interested in journalism or creative writing, 3. Bring awareness and raise donations for important causes in the Polk County area (Eg. K-9 for Warriors, Breast Cancer Awareness, Meals on Wheels). Additionally, the organization focuses on promoting and furthering education for high school students who are interested in The Northeast Polk Gazette’s mission, by providing internship/experience-bearing journalism positions. Since its creation, the community has been increasingly receptive to this organization, with many residents and businesses expressing their support.
In summary, SSG Camacho-Reyes made an oath to serve her country, during and after her career in the military. She firmly holds and believes in loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage, which are the values of the U.S Army. Her willingness to selflessly serve her community and those around her is a duty that she proudly carries throughout her everyday life. Marielys believes that no act of service or kindness is too little or too insignificant. She hopes to inspire others around her to adopt a similar sense of responsibility, in order to create a chain reaction that results in making the world a better place for us and the generations to come.