Otto Cruz spent six years in harm’s way — two deployments with the Army National Guard to Iraq between 2004 and 2010, broken up by three and a half months to lead the reopening of New Orleans’ 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

As superintendent of the Mabton School District, Joey Castilleja wears dress slacks, a jacket and tie most days. He occasionally dons his Army National Guard uniform, which prompts talk and second looks.

“The first time my students see it, it really throws them off,” he said. Some of the little kids comment. “Oh, you’re an Army man,” they say.

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