Mrs. Meza said her three sons, one daughter and a son-in-law have all worn the eagle, globe and anchor ever since her oldest son joined the Corps on Nov. 25, 1991, right after graduating from A.C. Jones High School.
Today, Jerome is stationed at the Corps’ Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
“I’ll always remember that day,” Meza said on Nov. 10, “because he was the first one. He’ll have his 20 years next year.”
What followed was a family tradition that has carried the Villarreals to Marine Corps bases from here to the Middle East and even to Okinawa.
In July, five members of the family donned their dress blues to pose for a photo in front of their mother’s home on Glendale Drive.
They included Cpl. Edolio Villarreal Jr., a 2006 graduate of JHS who joined the Marines in January 2007, Staff Sgt. Gene Morales, Meza’s son-in-law, her daughter, former Cpl. Marivel Morales, Jerome and Cpl. Joshua Villarreal, Meza’s youngest son.
Meza said her daughter met her husband, Gene Morales, shortly after they joined the Marines in 2001.
She and her New York native husband were the first family members to go to Iraq in 2004.
Marivel, a 2001 JHS graduate, left the USMC when her enlistment was up in 2005. But her husband is still in the Corps. He also went to Afghanistan in 2008.
The couple recently left for duty in Okinawa, Japan.
Edolio Jr. is now serving at Camp Lejeune, N.C. However, he’s already served two tours in Iraq and is scheduled to go to Afghanistan in January.
The youngest Villarreal, Joshua, graduated from JHS in 2007. He stayed around Beeville just long enough to attend his graduation party and left immediately for the Corps.
Joshua is now at Camp Lejeune but he spent a tour in Iraq in 2008 and a tour in Afghanistan in 2009-10. His mother said he plans to leave the Marine Corps when his enlistment is up and start college.
Meza said her husband, and stepfather of her children, Raul Meza, is an Army veteran. But he could not be prouder of the Villarreal Marine Corps tradition the family has followed.
The only one of Meza’s children who has not been a Marine is oldest daughter, Laurie Cantu.
But Mom Meza is just as proud of her as she is the other siblings.
Like her mother, Laurie has returned to school after having her family.
“She’s studying nursing,” Meza said with a broad grin.