RALEIGH -- Richard Torres had given up hope. He'd put in 30 years in the Army, and his time was up. The ink on his orders for retirement was dry. He was letting his hair grow out. He changed his workout routine.
His brief foray into full-time civilian life ended with a phone call Jan. 3.
"Sir, we know you're retired, but we'd like you to be a general officer," said the voice on the other end.
That phone call kicked off a process that made Torres, 51, a one-star general at a ceremony in Raleigh on Saturday. That rank, Brigadier General, is awarded to only about 200 in the U.S. Army.
The emotions coursing through Torres included disbelief and joy, but it was a moment also tinged with sadness. Torres' father, a former Army master sergeant who inspired his military career, never got to see his son get his star. John Torres died in October after suffering through various ailments, including heart disease and diabetes.
3 generations honored
In his own way, Torres, of Raleigh, made sure his father was present Saturday during his promotion ceremony at the N.C. National Guard and N.C. State EOC Joint Facility. White flowers representing his deceased father and grandfather were on display in the front of the auditorium. Another flower stood in for his sister, who was also absent. The ceremonial pistol Richard Torres received was the same one he awarded his father during his 20-year service ceremony.
Military service may be in the genetic code of the Torres family.
More than 70 years ago, Richard Torres' grandfather, Staff Sgt Jesus Torres, joined the Army from Puerto Rico during World War II. He was killed in action during the North African Campaign while serving with the 1st Infantry Division, earning his second Purple Heart.
"For me personally, it's an opportunity to continue the service that my grandfather started when he joined the Army in Puerto Rico to make a difference in WWII," Torres said Saturday. "To be able to continue what he gave his life for and what my dad served 20 years for in some of the roughest assignments. He was a Korean War veteran. To make them proud. To let them know their son, their grandson is doing his part to serve this great country and continue their legacy."
Torres joined the Army in 1981 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve a year later. He deployed overseas to Korea and after Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. He has held numerous command positions with the N.C. National Guard and in the U.S. Army Reserve. Torres also has a civilian career. He is the Senior Manager of Product Operations for Progress Software Corp.
When he originally retired in December, he left as a colonel serving the 80th Training Command in Richmond, Va., the third largest command organization in the U.S. Army Reserve. It's also where he will assume his post as a brigadier general.
"Rich went 30 years in the crucible of working his way up to be become considered as a general officer," said Maj. Gen. Bill Gerety, his commander at the 80th Training Command, during the promotion ceremony. "Rich, congratulations. Well deserved. You've earned it. You're a gentlemen, you're an officer, you're a solider."
Retired Maj. Gen. John McLaren said military leaders saw Torres as someone who could step in for any commanding officer anytime, anywhere.
'The eye of the needle'
"You are without a doubt one of the best and most dedicated officers that I've ever served with," McLaren said. "Becoming a Brigadier General is a giant step. It has been likened to ? going through the eye of the needle backward at Mach 3. ? You will shape our nation's defense, and I know you are ready to take this giant leap."
His mother Judith beamed as she watched her son get his rank pinned. She's not surprised that her son made general or that he chose the military path. "He liked what he saw his father do. He wanted to make him proud," she said. "The only thing I regret is that my husband, he wasn't able to see it."