Early in his military career, Sgt. John Zamora advanced to the final of his weight class in a boxing tournament.
Then things went sideways. Zamora took a punch to the face that busted his nose, resetting it at a 90-degree angle. He didn’t seek medical attention because he was leaving Fort Bragg on a paratrooping exercise in California in a couple of days and did not want to miss it.
The jump added to his pain.
“The winds were too high,’’ Zamora said. “I had a rough landing. I did a feet and face landing, smashed my face on the ground, got up, blood all over. We parachuted, reorganized and got linked up with our company, and then I ran to my buddies. ‘Is my nose still there?’ ‘Yep, it’s still there.’’’
So is Zamora, going strong at 57 years old.
Figuring a student who did just enough to get by wasn’t ready for college, he enlisted in the Army out of high school in 1981. Zamora, the second-oldest of seven children from Santa Rosa, New Mexico, recently joined his home state’s National Guard unit after serving in the reserves for most of the past decade.
“I went back to the infantry,’’ said Zamora, who is 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. “They told me, ‘Wow, you’re too old to be doing this stuff.’ I see these guys 30 and younger. I’m in better health than they are. I don’t wear glasses. My ears are good. I’ve got no bad knees, no shoulders, no pain. I’m healthier than all heck.’’
Zamora has been in and out of the military most of his life.
His initial stint lasted three years — Zamora was deployed to Grenada in 1983 — before it was time to give college a try. While a student, he enrolled in Officer Candidate School, but Zamora made it only a year or two before deciding being an officer did not suit him.
Then he entered the National Guard. He was with the Colorado National Guard when he got out after his wife became sick. Later on, Zamora joined the Wisconsin National Guard and was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2009. After returning to the United States, he went into the reserves and now is back in the National Guard.
“I’ve still got friends from the ’80s,’’ said Zamora, whose brother, Timothy, served 28 years in the Navy and was a master chief. “We still talk regularly.’’
Two of Zamora’s longtime Army buddies are Carl Haring and Ray Meier. Asked to describe Zamora’s best quality, Haring mentioned loyalty.
“Once he gets something in his mind, he has a very strong sense of duty and honor,’’ Haring said. “He’s not going to bend. He’s not just going to say something just to make you feel good.’’
Haring and Meier were deployed with Zamora’s unit to Grenada.
“Someone like John was one of the reasons I went into the paratroops,’’ Meier said. “A family friend said, ‘When you go to war, you want to be with the paratroops, because the guys to your left and right are the guys you want there.’ He was always that guy.’’
Zamora is just as thankful that he got to realize his dream as he is of his service. Ever since he was a child, he wanted to become a game warden. Zamora retired from the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish and currently fills the same role for the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
He never has lost his love of the outdoors or the military.
“I came in, in the infantry. I’m going to go out in the infantry,’’ Zamora said. “I like that camaraderie. I like being around guys, playing Army.’’Read comments