In 1984 a 15- year-old young man was pitching in the state championship game of the Little League Senior Division. A few years later this same young man was leading the West Las Vegas football team into the state playoffs against the powerful Artesia Bulldogs as the Dons’ starting quarterback. Fast forward to present and this same young man is a commander and flight officer in the United States Navy, flying the P-3 Orion aircraft.
Michael Abreu has lived his dream of the star athlete and is now living out his childhood dream of flying jets and serving his country.
“I've been interested in airplanes and space since I was a kid, so I knew I wanted to go into the aerospace engineering field after high school,” said Abreu.
While in high school, Abreu was a North-South quarterback and North-South shortstop and pitcher as well an all-state basketball player.
Upon graduation he attended Boston University, before being accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis where he received his B.A. in aerospace engineering, in 1992. In 2001 Abreu attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and received his C.S. and M.S. in astronautical engineering (space systems engineering).
As a child, Abreu’s interest in planes and space was only a dream. “I became interested in the Navy and flying during my first year in college at Boston while studying aerospace engineering, as it seemed like a fun and challenging way to actually experience flying rather than just studying about it and working in that field,” said Abreu.
To date, the former Dons signalcaller has flown more than 3,500 hours in the P-3 Orion aircraft and other training aircraft and has flown more than 40 combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq. He has flown more than 500 total missions around the world, ranging from counter-drug operations in the Caribbean and South America to surveillance missions in the western Pacific.
So what has been the coolest part about being able to fly around the world and see things most only dream about?
“Getting the chance to work with and lead some of the most amazing and hardest-working people I have ever known, flying difficult missions in combat around the world, and genuinely feeling like I have made a contribution to the safety and security of those I love back home,” he said.
Abreu has also had the opportunity to visit such places as Panama, Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy, Hawaii, Japan, Brunei (island nation in the South Pacific), Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, England, Greece, and Thailand, but being away from home is never easy for the proud men and women serving our great country, and Abreu is no different.
“I miss my family and old friends, enchiladas, tamales, empanadas, and the beautiful scenery of northern New Mexico.”
He added that he does try and make it home at least twice a year and noted that he has three and half years to go until he becomes eligible to retire. He did not say if he will re-enlist.
With that in mind, Abreu says that the Navy has been a very rewarding experience and added, “It has taught me that there is a big world out there, and it's important to either go out and explore it or at least pay attention to what's happening in it, as it can personally affect you and your loved ones. It's also taught me the value and importance of hard work and doing the right thing. The Navy allowed me to develop unique leadership and management skills, and has shown me that people are the most important part of any organization.”
Everybody has an opinion about the situation in the Middle East and with that Abreu pointed out, “I think people should keep in the front of their minds how incredibly hard our service men and women are working out there, and pay attention to news about the war to form their own opinions based on multiple sources of information.”
He added that he was very pleased with the support many people have shown many United States soldiers.
“I regularly have people thanking me and telling me to keep up the good work, and I see them telling that to other service members also, which makes me feel great to see that kind of appreciation. That makes a big difference to us.”
Through it all, Abreu remains proud to be a Las Vegas native and West Las Vegas graduate.
“I'm proud of where I come from, and it makes me feel good to come home and see people continuing to contribute so much to each other in so many different ways. Las Vegas is a very special place, as is northern New Mexico — and the people truly make it that way. I would never be where I am today without the incredible teachers, coaches, and support I received from the West Las Vegas school system as well as friends and family supporting me and helping me every step of the way. I am truly fortunate, thankful, and blessed to have grown up in a city where people truly care about each other and help each other succeed.”
The young man has grown up.
Mike is the son of Ernest and Mary Louise Abreu.
Even though I am happier than you know what that my Dodgers have advanced to the National League Championship series, I cannot be more sad for those loyal Cubs fans. Nobody in pro sports has supported their team like the Chicago Cubs fans. I would have loved to have seen the Cubs in the Series, but all I can say is, oh well.
And finally ... hey, Ricky Armijo, I want to say thanks, and you know why.
Tripp — out!
Richard Tripp is a longtime local educator who writes sports stories for the Optic. Don’t talk to him about Dallas right now.