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Community Member Kayzehn Enas, a Veteran of the Iraq War

Kayzehn Enas. AAN file photo

It’s been about 13 years since Kayzehn Enas trudged through the Iraq and Kuwait deserts as part of his U.S. Marine Corps Reserve unit. It’s an experience he’ll never forget, even if he could.

Back in 1999, a 19-year-old Enas decided he wanted to be a U.S. Marine. Today, at 36, Enas has detailed memories of his six years served, from 1999 through 2005, including a six-month tour in the Middle East at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. Enas, a blackjack dealer at Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort and Casino, is one of dozens of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members to serve in the U.S. military.

“I made it and I graduated,” he said. “It’s one of the proudest moments in my life and my family’s.”

Enas split his tour of duty between Iraq and Kuwait at a location he didn’t know and wasn’t told. He was a member of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion and 4th Force Service Support Group. His primary duty included working with fuel; he was part of a unit that helped construct a 130-mile fuel line, at times in 125-degree heat while wearing 10 to 15 pounds of required gear. Enas said his unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for completing the fuel line.

“It went by really slow; you took it day by day,” he said. “It was the same type of heat as Arizona, without the luxuries of being in the shade when you want or grabbing a drink when you want. You had a job to do, and you did it.”

U.S. Marines Virgil Brown, Kayzehn Enas and Reuben Thomas. AAN file photo.
Phone calls back home were limited and sporadic at best, thanks to a shared satellite phone for personal calls that wasn’t always available. Because of the phone limitations and 10- to 11-hour time difference, Enas said he never spoke to his family during his tour. When no one answered at home, he called a friend’s house and even chatted with a friend’s mom, just to hear a familiar voice and not waste his phone privilege.

“We had five minutes to talk, maybe less, depending where the battery was,” he said.

His time in the reserve took him to training opportunities in California, Alaska and Japan. For the most part, he trained close to home, in the Phoenix metro area.

Enas chose the reserves over serving full-time because his late grandfather, Andy Enas, was battling health issues and he didn’t want to be away for long periods. Andy Enas served in World War II as member of the U.S. Navy.

“I wanted to do something for myself that nobody could take away from me,” Enas said. “I wanted to do something that not everybody can say they did and to bring pride to my family name. I wanted to make my parents proud and my grandparents proud.”