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Happy Fathers Day: Growing up VA

employees standing for a picture in front of the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

The Mireles' all work in the same building, but rarely get to see one another with their demanding schedules. Here they pose for a family photo outside of the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital.

By Steven Goetsch
Monday, June 20, 2016
On June 19, sons and daughters scramble to get the latest gadgets, tools or ties to honor their dads for Father’s Day. For Stephanie and Aaron Mireles, they got their father Ruben, the best gift ever, joining him at the South Texas VA to take care of America’s Heroes.

Ruben Mireles joined the Navy Reserves in 1970. The following year he became a hospital corpsman which set off a long and illustrious career of 40 years in the medical field. After active duty, he went into nursing and graduated with his associates in nursing in 1977.

It wasn’t a big jump for him into the VA to serve Veterans like he did his fellow sailors and Marines years earlier. “I have always enjoyed working with our Veterans, serving those that have served before me and now,” said Ruben Mireles, who is now a registered nurse perfusionist at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

He says he enjoys it because he has been there with them. “You can relate to some of the many problems they carry with them because you have been able to work through yours,” Ruben said.

Besides taking care of fellow brothers and sisters in arms, Ruben eventually began his own family, first having Aaron, a son who growing up, decided to follow his father and ended up at the Navy recruiter, although he had leanings toward spending time on a flight line rather than a flight deck. “My dad had some influence in me joining the Navy,” Aaron said. “I wanted to go into the Air Force, but eventually decided to go into the Navy and follow my dad’s footsteps and become a corpsman.”
A picture of both Aaron and Stephanie being held by their proud father, Ruben.

Ruben is holding children in separate photos. Both children knew they wanted to go into healthcare, and they managed to do so from the support of both of their parents.

Aaron spent 11 years in the Navy, often visiting his father at Audie Murphy when he came home on leave. Even though he always had an affinity for helping people, and a caring side, he feels he is also in the best spot because of his past experiences. “I think being a Vet gives me a better understanding,” said Aaron of his two years of VA service. “We have empathy, because although we are different in age, we have gone through many of the same things.”

Aaron references the age difference because of his current position of Certified Nurse Assistant in the Community Living Center brings him into contact with many World War II, Korean and Vietnam-era Veterans.

Next came Stephanie, who is currently a recreation therapist in the Polytrauma Unit at Audie. Growing up in a Veteran and nursing family, exposed her to some less-than-conventional scenery. “When I was younger, I got to observe an open heart surgery,” Stephanie said. “It was the most amazing thing to see how surgeries are done, and how the machine my father operates takes over the hearts function.”

That early exposure to the VA might have been enough to plant the seed that has led her to a budding six year VA career.

Stephanie tried nursing, hoping to be like her father, completing a year of nursing school at the University of the Incarnate Word before switching majors into Athletic Training. She was nervous about the decision, but like the reasons we celebrate fathers on this day, her worries were for naught. “I thought telling him I was changing majors would disappoint him,” Stephanie said. “But he was supportive in my decision to pursue another career.”

Having family members at work might seem like a benefit, but this VA family affair doesn’t have a lot of time for family. All three works in different areas, with different schedules and rarely gets to see one another when they are on the clock. “I actually don’t get to see my brother too often since he works in the CLC,” Stephanie said. “Periodically in the parking garage and it’s a quick hello,” she added.

Ruben Mireles sitting on the couch holding is two children.

Ruben said he has always supported his children to become what they want, but instilled a strong work ethic to make it happen. In addition to both of his children joining him at the South Texas VA, Aaron followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Navy to become a corpsman.

A blueprint for many parents is to provide their children with more opportunities than they themselves had. Ruben has set the bar high for his children, serving his country in its Armed Forces, and continuing to serve Veterans for almost four decades. But he takes his title of “father” as serious as the former. “I continuously try to serve as a role model to them with good work ethic,” Ruben says. Although he mentions parenting does have its challenges.

Those sentiments did not fall on deaf ears. Stephanie reflected on her father’s special day and had some words that affirm what her father means to her. “He’s been the person who pushed me to believe in myself, even when I didn’t," she said.

Aaron also touts his father’s dedication when asked about him. “I’d like to thank him for being there for me.” Aaron replied. “We may not always see eye to eye, but I always know I can count on him.”

So as Ruben Mireles plans to retire, ending his four decades of serving Veterans, his children pause to salute him as mentor and father.

And we too, shall pause to honor him in raising the bar, raising his children, so as he prepares to hang up his scrubs, his gift is knowing the passion for serving Veterans will remain at South Texas through his son and daughter for years to come. Happy Father’s Day. #fathersday #betterwithdad #veterans #nursing #sanantonio #texas



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