More than 30 years ago, James Abeyta and a friend were looking at a catalog about the U.S. Navy. And it immediately sparked the Mora County native’s interest.
On Friday, Abeyta, an air force master chief in the Navy, retired after three decades with the service.
“Had we been looking at an Army catalog, I might have been in the Army,” said the 48-year-old Abeyta.
During his career, Abeyta enjoyed much success. As air force master chief at Naval Air Station North Island near San Diego, Abeyta was the senior enlisted service member for the entire Pacific.
He worked directly under a three-star admiral, Thomas Kilcline Jr. In his position, Abeyta responded to the concerns of the 79,000 enlisted service members in the Pacific and advised Kilcline, who was in charge of all Navy aircraft and carriers, on how policies affected enlisted members.
“I tried to create opportunities for people to be pretty successful themselves,” he said.
Abeyta’s mother, Lydia, attended the retirement ceremony; his father, Alfonso Jr., died in 1989.
His mother- and father-in-law, Dora and William Romero Jr., weren’t able to go because William Romero has been sick. Abeyta said he wishes that hadn’t been the case because they helped him with his family in his early years in the Navy.
“My in-laws were able to give me success,” he said.
Abeyta said being away from his family has been the toughest part about serving in the Navy. He said he had nine six-month overseas deployments, and he’s flown 1 million air miles.
He said he will likely get a civilian job in Tennessee doing much the same work when he leaves the Navy.
Still, he’s kept in contact with Mora and San Miguel counties, where he has family. He went to Mora’s 1978 class reunion in June. He said he got his GED in 1977 but that the Mora class considers him one of its own.
“Las Vegas and Mora are like home to me. Not a day has gone by that I didn’t remember where I came from,” Abeyta said.