State Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston is being deployed to Afghanistan.
Noriega, a major in the Army National Guard, now is making plans to head off to a war zone. From a camp near Kabul, Afghanistan, he will train Afghans in basic Army skills.
The Democrat from Houston, who is in his third term, is scheduled to report to Camp Mabry in Austin on June 16. After weeks of training, he expects to be deployed to Afghanistan in August.
Sitting in the living room of his home in the Eastwood area Monday, Noriega, 46, talked about his assignment and joked about capturing terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
The fourth-generation Houstonian chose to keep some subjects private, however, including the tears he and his family have shed. He shrugged off his situation, saying he is just another soldier serving his country.
"I'm fortunate I have a lot of support. Some of these kids don't have what we have," said Noriega, who works as a manager in CenterPoint Energy's economic development department.
"I don't want to trivialize where I'm going," he added. "Being in the military is serious business. That is what you accept as part of the contract. I signed up to serve the people of Texas and this country."
In the short time he has before leaving, Noriega and his wife, Melissa, have some decisions to make: arranging insurance coverage, making sure the mortgage is covered, finding time to put up a security fence, and selling his 2000 Chevrolet Suburban to avoid carrying a note and insurance on it.
"It's impacting everyone," he said. "We've got a lot of men and women being called up. It's my obligation. I've been training for 22 years and it's my turn."
Noriega, who represents District 145 on Houston's east and southeast sides, isn't the only member of the Texas House in active military service.
Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, is a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve who has not been called to active duty. Rep. Frank Corte Jr., R- San Antonio, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, also is awaiting possible activation.
Corte spent 40 days on active duty in Egypt after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He recently finished six months of active service in South Korea.
During World War II, 13 state legislators from Texas were called to active military service; eight were called during the Korean War.
"There's been people before us," said Corte. "I think Rick, Carl and myself are ready to do what needs to be done."
A state constitutional amendment approved last November allows Noriega to appoint someone to his seat, pending approval from the House, if he is absent.
Noriega suggested that his wife of 13 years would make a good replacement.
"My plan is to cross that bridge when we get to it," he said. "And if we get to that point, I'll say I think my wife would do a great job."
Melissa Noriega, a project coordinator for the Houston Independent School District, said she would do whatever she could for the district.
"Women have been picking up plows and hammers to cover the home front," she said. "I don't see this as much different. I would do whatever I need to do to bridge the gap."