Executive Director Keith Arnold said, “I have been around business for 35 years, and I have never heard of a chamber of commerce having a ceremonial flag flown. We are deeply appreciative.”
During his last combat tour to Afghanistan in 2013 through January 2014, he had this American flag flown in the skies of Afghanistan in the Bee County Chamber’s honor. He had the flag encased in a frame, along with a certificate with the Chamber of Commerce name on it.
“This was important for me to take a moment when I was down range in a deployed environment and recognize the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce,” Canales said.
Remembers his roots
“One thing for me is that I never forgot the roots where I came from.
“Beeville will always be home to me, and the Chamber of Commerce, in my opinion, has helped Beeville flourish.
“I have seen my hometown come alive again over the years after the decision was made to have Chase Field Naval Air Station close due to Base Realignment and Closure.
“It was a big hit to my small hometown, but through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce, Beeville is still flourishing.
“I witness it whenever I come to visit, and it always makes me happy to see their hard work and dedication is paying off.”
day in his honor
Mayor David Carabajal, in appreciation for all that Canales had done, proclaimed Wednesday as Mark Canales Day.
“There is a saying, ‘There is no greater love than one that will lay down his life for a friend,’” Carabajal recited. “It is an honor to stand here today and call our hometown hero a friend.”
Canales also was inducted as an honorary member of the Beeville Sports Hall of Fame.
Canales seemed surprised by the two recognitions.
“I reflect on the past a lot because the past has made me the young man I am today,” he said. “I didn’t have much growing up as a little kid. Growing up in the government projects, I did what I could with what I had.”
SFC Canales enlisted in the Army in November 1999 and served as an administration enlisted soldier, attaining the rank of staff sergeant in 2008.
Having not felt challenged enough, he decided to reclassify to another military occupation specialty known as Military Intelligence. That opportunity was afforded to him in 2008, shortly after his promotion.
His long-term goal of attaining the rank of sergeant first class prior to retirement still loomed on the horizon.
Canales knew the hard work and dedication he would need to commit to in order to achieve his current ranking. After three combat tours to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, the payoff efforts and sacrifice were finally complete. He was promoted to sergeant first class.
“Through my Army career, my family has been there for me through four combat tours, and their love and support never goes unnoticed,” he said.
“I made a vow to myself that my kids would not grow up under the living conditions I grew up as a small child. It is a vow that I am still holding true today and will hold through the rest of my life.”
Decision to join
The Beeville native said his decision to join the Army stemmed from an unfortunate incident which occurred in January 1999—one he says he wishes he could erase from his memory and one which still brings tears to his eyes.
The tragic murder of a dear friend, Sue Reynolds, whom he had dated for five years, sent his life in a spiral because he did not know how to cope with it.
It was this situation that prompted him to join the military and leave Beeville in hopes of a fresh new start.
“The idea and mind set is that maybe someone from Beeville and surrounding areas has a similar situation they are going through,” he said. “They, too, can overcome adversity like I did.
“I could have taken the wrong road but chose the right one and stayed true to my goals despite the obstacles that lay ahead.”
Many medals earned
Canales added, “I have no regrets joining the Army.
“The benefits have been rewarding, and my wife of 11 years has taken this long journey by my side. Like many military wives, she has sacrificed a lot, seeing me through four combat tours and a restricted tour to Korea. I thank her for the love, patience and understanding. It is that glue that has kept us together this long.”
Canales has received numerous medals including the Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation, Army Commendation, Army Achievement, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary, Global War on Terrorism Service, Korean Defense Service, NATO Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
He will return for another restricted tour to Korea when he reports in September for yet another year.
Canales’ next goal is retirement once 20 years comes.
That is, assuming he doesn’t get another promotion before then.
“Nothing changes,” Canales said. “The same drive and motivation will continue because I know what defines success and what it looks like.
“To continue to be the role model for my children and set the example is something I take pride in.
“I am proud of all my children’s most recent accomplishments and know that the sky is the limit for them.
“All I can do is continue to motivate them and have them reach for the stars. Hard work and dedication does pay off, and they, too, will soon realize their hard work in the near future.”
Before his military career, the 1993 A.C. Jones High School graduate also made his hometown proud being named regional finalist and two-time high school state cross country qualifier (1990-93).
Canales, his wife, Josephine, and two children, Alexander and Nicholas, reside in Colorado. His two eldest children from Beeville, Teran and Mark Canales Jr., visited them there last month. Canales is the son of Maria Bertha Chapa.