MONTEREY PRESIDIO, Calif. — Nearly 200 Presidio of Monterey service members honored a facility bus driver by donating a name tape to display inside his bus.
Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Robert “Gunny” Enriquez launched “Gunny’s Wall of Fame” with just three name strips three months ago, and it’s grown exponentially since then. Most of Enriquez’s passengers are students from all branches of the military who attend the Defense Language Institute‘s Foreign Language Center.
“It really shows how much we mean to him,” said Airman 1st Class Sebastian Peralta, who is assigned to 314 Training Squadron and gave Enriquez one of his name tapes. “I think it’s a way for us to show how much he means to us by immortalizing ourselves on the bus.”
On weekdays, seven shuttles run to help students get from place to place during peak hours. Enriquez drove a station bus for about eight years, and before that he served in the Marine Corps for 22 years. Other decorations on the bus — Marine Corps stickers, challenge coins and stuffed animals — make it clear he takes pride in his service.
Enriquez enlisted in the Marine Corps directly after graduating from nearby Seaside High School in 1971. He served as a crew chief on CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and served in Hawaii, Africa, in Korea, Guam and Okinawa.
He enjoys his job as a bus driver, Enriquez said, because he enjoys being around the military. He was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, and grew up as a military kid in Hawaii and California. His father was a drill sergeant at the old Fort Ord and he cherishes his time in the Marine Corps.
“I owe my life to the Marine Corps,” Enriquez said. “I was going the wrong way before I joined the Marine Corps. I was screwing up in high school, and luckily I graduated, and the day I graduated, I went straight into the Marine Corps.
Not only does Enriquez cherish his service time, but he wants service members to know that he values their service as well. The Wall of Fame is a tribute, he said.
“I appreciate them for doing everything they go through,” Enriquez said. “Not only are they trained to become linguists, but they also have their military obligations to fulfill while they are here. I admire them. I congratulate them. They have a plate full of responsibilities.
Service members said they gave Enriquez name tapes because they appreciate the way he treats them and because the Wall of Fame boosts morale.
“Sometimes, especially after a long day of classes – it can be quite brutal – and just knowing your name is up there is a bit, ‘Hey, it’s me. This is my bus,” said Airman Johnathen Sanchez of the 314th Training Squadron.
Peralta noted that when an airman with a broken leg got on the bus and Enriquez greeted him warmly — and made sure he had plenty of time to get to his seat — it was a typical behavior for Enriquez.
“He’s always ready to say ‘Hi’,” Peralta said. “Just like when that airman with the broken leg walked by, he was, ‘Hey, what’s up? How are you?’ It is very interactive and very fun.
Airman Andrew Martz of the 314th Training Squadron also contributed his name tape and said he appreciates the way Enriquez treats everyone.
“Gunny just has a really special energy about him,” Martz said. “First of all, all the other bus drivers, you call him ‘sir’, but Gunny, we all call him ‘Gunny’. It’s just Gunny, I guess. He’s always really nice when he’s get on the bus, and just by seeing this on the wall, you can see there’s real appreciation there.
Brian Clark, director of the PoM Logistics Readiness Center and a former Air Force logistics officer, said he gave Enriquez a name tape from his time in the Air Force in hopes that others would. likewise. The display is a great morale-builder, he said, and it’s exciting to see how many people participated.
“Gunny is very popular with PoM service members and hopes to bring joy to those who ride his bus,” Clark said. “Gunny’s positive attitude and name tape display are a welcome and fun distraction from the stressful day all service members experience when attending IDD.”
Enriquez said he wanted to help the students as much as possible because he appreciates that they volunteered to serve their country. By helping students, he continues to serve his country.
“Once they start riding my bus enough, I get to know them,” Enriquez said. “I get to know the students. I know when they are depressed or there is something bothering them. So I ask them, ‘Are you okay?’ Because when they’re not normal, something’s wrong, so I ask them.
For example, a Marine Corps teddy bear on Enriquez’s dashboard is from a former student he helped. The student told her that she was having trouble with her Arabic lessons and was considering quitting. Enriquez told him, “Take it one day at a time and do your best every day. That’s all they can ask of you.
She did just that and after passing her classes, she presented the bear to Enriquez to say thank you.