By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
He has served in the U.S. Army Reserves for the past seven years. And between 2008 and 2009, Spc. Everett Perez was responsible for protecting convoys, valued at more than $2 million apiece, carrying food and supplies as they traveled from Kuwait into Iraq. For 48 hours at a stretch during those trips, he and his fellow infantrymen were on high alert, preparing themselves for any eventuality in order to “get the job done.”
“There were those days where you had scares, and you just had to keep your head on a swivel and remain focused,” he said.
It was a lot of responsibility for any person to handle, let alone someone in his early 20s.
“I just had to remember why I’m here, what I’m doing, and what I’m looking forward to coming back home to,” he explained.
For the last two years, Perez has been faced with a much different task: to find a job as a civilian. So far, he hasn’t met with much success.
“I followed up with all the places I applied to,” he said. “I’ve done a few interviews. And they say they’ll call me back, but they almost never do. They’ve seen my resume, and they seem to be impressed with it. But it’s just the way the economy is now. Employers can be choosy.”
Perez, who currently lives with his aunty in Leilani Estates, says his fruitless search for employment has been difficult to take at times, but if he learned anything in the service, it’s to “just keep putting yourself out there.”
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” he said. “As long as you have that motivation. And my aunty’s been that motivation. She’s kept me going. … She lit the fire.”
A former high school wrestler, Perez helped to train the other men in his unit in hand-to-hand combat techniques.
“Everyone in the unit takes part in teaching something,” he said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to be proficient. And you learn by teaching.”
Perez says he’d like to take that experience teaching his fellow soldiers and apply it to teaching children about one of his passions: physical fitness.
“I do a lot of CrossFit and I like to stay active,” he said. “Me being a kid myself once, I remember I always enjoyed learning from adults, and I’d love for me to have the opportunity to teach a child. It gives me a good feeling, because kids are just like the wind — everything is always different, it’s always changing. Until you sit down with them you don’t know what their mindset is.”
Ultimately, Perez says he’d like to own and operate his own youth fitness center.
“Youth programs give me satisfaction, and you know what they say, ‘Do what you love and you never have to work a day in your life,’” he said. “I have a passion for teaching kids,” he said.
Since February of 2011, he has worked part-time as a paraprofessional/educational assistant at Keonepoko Elementary School in Pahoa. It’s a start, he said, but he needs something that offers more security.
But after being on the hunt for civilian employment for the past several years, Perez says he may end up going back into active duty.
“I think at this point, because of the whole jobs thing, I think financial stability wise, active duty is my best bet. I’ve put in for it, and I just have to wait to hear back,” he said. “But if I find something before then …”
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.
Veteran: Everett Perez
Branch of Service: U.S. Army Reserve
Assignment: 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman (mortarman)
Stationed: Hilo, HI - B Co. 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Reserves
Deployment: 2008-2009 — Kuwait City-Iraq; and Mosul, Balad-Iraq
Lives in: Pahoa
Job sought: Perez says he loves physical fitness and teaching kids, and would like the opportunity to combine those interests by finding employment with an area youth center.
Contact: People interested in contacting Perez should call Melvin Arai at the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations at (808) 981-2860, ext. 227.