FORT HOOD, Texas — Every day U.S. service members do extraordinary things to defend the nation and once a year the USO honors one from each branch of the military.
Sergeant Erick Ceja is a soldier with the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and this year’s USO Army Service Member of The Year.
Something his commander wasn’t surprised to hear.
”He is an outstanding soldier,” said COL BJ Bennett, commander of 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. “He does what noncommissioned officers are supposed to do. They are the backbone of the United States Army.”
Ceja is a native Texan who grew up in El Paso where he met the woman who would become his wife.
”I met him in a Quinceanera,” said Alexandria Ceja. “We were both going to be in it, and we met there. We practiced together and that’s how we met but we were not partners.”
Little did he know meeting his future wife would also lead straight to the Army.
”My wife's uncle who was my recruiter, First Sergeant Salazar, I looked up to him,” said Ceja, USO Army service member of the year. “I see him as my motivation every day and someone I look forward to being one day.”
Ceja is not only a soldier and husband, but he is also a dedicated father.
”He’s the best dad,” said Alexandria Ceja. “I think my daughter prefers him more. He’s so fun and so caring, he’s the best dad.”
Ceja was named the USO’s Army Service Member of the year for courageous actions while deployed. A huge honor he says isn’t just for him.
”My team and I were always ready and late that night, around 3 in the morning, that’s when we got Blazing Skies,” said SGT Ceja. “Once we heard that, we reacted immediately, and we didn’t back down.”
SGT Ceja led a team that took down an incoming missile with the use of the Patriot surface-to-air missile system and was the first to do so in nearly two decades.
An act of courage and valor that saved countless lives.