Austin Honors Soldier With Young Spirit Who Died in Afghanistan
The nickname Carmen Reigoux had for her 30-year-old brother Job still makes her laugh.
"We would call him Dumbo, my little brother called him Master Splinter because you have a pointy nose like a rat, and the big ears," she recalled.
But, she says, he was also very handsome.
"My brother was a big kid stuck in an adult body. He was a big kid and I love that about him. He was always goofy and he always had a smile on his face," Carmen Reigoux said.
He loved kids too, and when Carmen had her own son in 2001 he was always there to lend a hand.
"I remember one day he came home from work and I had my son sleeping on me and I remember he woke me up, he gave me a kiss on my forehead and he gave me a rose and he said, ‘Thank you for giving me my nephew,'" she said. "He was very sweet, he was such a gentleman. You would have loved him. Everybody would have."
It surprised the family when that gentle, “big kid” enlisted in the army in 2002. In the years since, he served two tours in Iraq. Got married and had two children of his own. Reigoux was stationed in Fort Stewart, Georgia, before his deployment to Afghanistan last November and Carmen says they had to rely mostly on the phone and the internet to stay in touch.
"Before he disconnected his phone, he would call me just to check up on me. I used to love waking up because he would text me at like 4 or 5 in the morning just to see his message," Carmen Reigoux said.
Jarell Gatlin, met Reigoux in 2011 when they were stationed in Georgia. "He was was my best friend and he was a great leader and soldier," Gatlin said.
In Georgia, Reigoux earned another nickname: Rex.
"They called him Ragu like the spaghetti sauce. I think that people used to try and mess it up on purpose because it was funny. Just because, there was no real reason. We liked him and it was funny. We got laughter out of who could come up with the funniest name," Gatlin said.
While Carmen remembers her brother’s gentle side, Gatlin and those he served with also recall his courage, and his grace under fire. She says she’s heard from many soldiers on Facebook since his death.
"One, his name is Hanson. He was like, ‘Carmen, your brother was the bravest, the strongest out there on the field.' He wishes he could have been there, he wishes he could have seen my brother off as well," she said.
Another is named Michael Collins.
"He was like ‘I idolized your brother, I looked up to him. He was like my best friend. It was an honor to have known him, he was a great man,'" Carmen Reigoux said.
Collins is still serving in Afghanistan. We couldn’t arrange to talk to him by phone, but he wrote to me about Reigoux – or Rex -- in an email. “He always could make anybody laugh even in the worst situations. He carried a rubber monkey around and took pics of it all the time in the weirdest places. He wanted to send them to his daughter,” Collins writes.
On June 1, Reigoux was killed when his unit came under rocket propelled grenade attack in Ghazni Province in Eastern Afghanistan. When his sister Carmen received the news, she says she couldn’t believe it. Her brother was going to visit Austin while he was on leave later this month. He was looking forward to taking his little girl to Sea World.
"I was in denial. I would go to my Facebook waiting and waiting. But I knew it was true because he still hasn’t written me back," she said.
This afternoon, funeral services for Job Reigoux will take place at Christian Life Church in Austin. His friend Jarell Gatlin, who escorted Reigoux’s coffin from Afghanistan to Austin, says even though Reigoux is gone, the way he lived his life will continue to serve as an example for those who knew him.
"He just always told me that life’s too short to try to think of ways that things can go wrong or how something’s not the way that you want it to be," Gatlin said.
Reigoux is survived by his wife, Erica, his son Seth, and his daughter Madison. He also leaves behind his parents Maria Guevara and Rubén Reigoux, his two sisters Carmen Reigoux and Angie Guevara and his younger brother, Saúl Reigoux.