Felix Gines was 20 and looking scared when he made a decision that would take him across the world and span 30 years.
The eighth of 11 children, “I knew my mom and dad couldn’t really afford to send everybody to college,” said Gines, now a Biloxi City Council member.
He enlisted in the Mississippi Air National Guard, and his retirement after 30 years of service will be marked with a community reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Biloxi Visitors Center.
“My commander is going to introduce me,” he said.
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A short and informal program is planned.
“I actually started at 20 and I’m 50 now,” Gines said.
Initially he enlisted to get the GI Bill and tuition assistance.
“I was going to stay four years, get my degree,” he said.
Six years later, he was still working on his degree and just kept re-enlisting, even after he graduated from William Carey College with a degree in psychology and a minor in recreation.
It was through the National Guard that he got his training and his trade — electrical and air conditioning work.
“I was able to take that up to a master license in each area,” he said.
Those skills came in very handy after Hurricane Katrina devastated South Mississippi in 2005, he said.
“I did a lot of homes after Katrina,” Gines said.
In his 30 years, Gines deployed to Colombia to join a counter-narcotics program. He was stationed in the United Arab Emirates during Desert Watch, which came between Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He’s been to Canada, to Norway for joint force training and to Australia, where he used his electrical skills to work on a satellite to fly over the Southern Hemisphere.
The hardest part of being in the Guard is being away from his two sons two weeks a year and one weekend a month — “and I’ve doing that for 30 years,” he said.
Though leaving is hard, he said, “Once you serve, it’s that pride that you have.”
If you go:
What: Recpetion for Biloxi Councilman Felix Gines, who is retiring after 30 years in the Air National Guard
When: 7-9 p.m., Saturday
Where: Biloxi Visitors Center, 1050 U.S. 90, Biloxi