Military service is deeply rooted in this Marine’s family


Retired Petty Officer 1st Class Curt Reus, right, chats with his dad, retired Maj. Joe Reus, at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in Titusville

SENIOR LIFE Maria Sonnenberg

Curt Reus grew up in a family that considered service in the military not just a duty, but a privilege.

His dad, 96-year-old Joe Reus, was featured in the May 2018 issue of Senior Life. The elder Reus flew in three wars, was shot down twice and these days remains active as a volunteer with the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum.

“Additionally, all of my uncles served at least in World War II, with one serving in the Korean War as well,” Curt Reus said.

It seemed natural for the younger Reus to follow his relatives’ footsteps and one day become part of the U.S. military. He just needed to find the perfect branch of service, and after his father’s retirement from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, he did.

His family had moved to North Carolina where they were close enough to use the PX and commissaries at both Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Here, Reus first came face to face with the Marines. It was love at first sight.

“To a 4-year-old, those seemingly rail-thin, 6-foot-tall Marines made quite a lasting impression,” he said.

“I looked up to those Marines.”

Although the family’s next home in Bradenton was far removed from a military base, it nevertheless teemed with veterans who had served in conflicts as far back as World War I.

“The Vietnam War was still on the nightly news and we watched from our dinner table,” Reus said.

Reus got to know some of the old soldiers, including their next-door neighbor, a World War I veteran of France. Across the street lived a Marine veteran of Iwo Jima.

“Mr. Crowley rarely spoke, so I regret never hearing his story,”
Reus said.

He may not have engaged in conversations with the Marine, but he remains etched in Reus’ memory. Crowley had been severely wounded on the initial assault wave on Iwo Jima and Reus never forgot the scarred old man.

In the spring of 1983, with an associate degree in hand, Reus was able to add the title of Marine to his resume.

“I was one of 60 Marines to graduate from an initial group of 90,” said the Titusville resident.

He almost didn’t make it, thanks to the pneumonia that nearly killed him.

“After recovering, I chose to stay instead of accepting a medical excuse to go home,” he said.

Looking back, he still appreciates the elite nature of the Corps. As the recruitment poster put it, “if everyone could get in, it wouldn’t be the Marines.”

Following recruit training graduation, Reus headed for aviation training as an airframe structural mechanic. In 1984, Reus was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California.

“I found myself at a base steeped in Marine aviation history from World War II through the Vietnam era,” he said.

As part of the VMFA-314 Squadron, Reus made numerous land deployments and carrier work-up periods in preparation for his assignment to the then nearly 40-year-old USS Coral Sea, where he earned his sea legs. The ship was formidable, even in old age.

“She was older and bolder,” he said.

He saw port calls in Turkey, Italy, Sicily, France, Spain and Israel before tensions heated up with Muammar  Gaddafi’s Libya, the source of more than a few tense days at sea, including an incident when Libyan shore batteries fired Soviet-style SAM missiles at the carrier.

“We were fortunate the Libyan aim was off,” he said.

In the late 1980s, at the suggestion of his father, Reus switched services and joined the Navy. He left after 16 years of “Navy-time,” but his heart forever remains with the few, the proud, the Marines.

“I am proud to have served in the finest force of the finest country I could have imagined all those years ago,”
he said.

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