WASHINGTON – Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is an honor usually reserved for senior military officers and the president of the United States. Houstonian Yesenia Munoz, 19, doesn’t exactly meet those standards.
But the U.S. Navy has tapped Munoz for that honor Saturday, exactly 72 years after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into World War II.
In remembrance of that day and the American lives that were lost, Munoz, a Navy Seaman and one of five siblings in military service, will place the wreath.
“I am proud,” Munoz said. “To know I’m selected … out of everybody here, it’s me” is overwhelming, she said.
She’s humbled — but she’s also got a sense of humor. “I want everything to be perfect,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t want to be the one that messes up.”
A Navy spokesman said Munoz was chosen because she’s a “top-notch sailor” and because it was thought that the honor would help her “understand the high price many of America’s sailors have paid, and the legacy they have inherited.”
Munoz is the youngest sailor assigned to the Naval History and Heritage Command, which is devoted to preserving the Navy’s history.
A command at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard dating back to the 1800s, the NHHC is responsible for the “preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. Naval history and heritage.”
“When I first heard that I was going to NHHC I was like, ‘What is that?’ ” said Munoz. “I had never heard of it.”
Originally wishing to be placed on a ship right out of training, Munoz didn’t know what to expect from working in a command that she knew nothing about.
“When I came here, I had to get a tour,” said Munoz. “Everybody here was explaining to me what they do, and what it’s really about.”
Inspired to join up
Within the NHHC, Munoz works as a member of the IT department, providing support for the National Museum of the U.S. Navy as well as the various naval museums around the nation.
“What I do is I make sure that the Navy museums have the equipment they need,” said Munoz. “I just make sure that all of their computers are functioning properly.”
Inspired to join the military by her four older brothers — two of whom joined the Navy, the other two the Marines — Munoz enlisted in the Navy right after her May 2012 graduation from Dobie High School in southeast Houston. All five are still serving.
“I saw my brothers having a great opportunity in the military, so I was like, ‘well I want that too,’ ” said Munoz.
While it wasn’t her first choice, she has come to enjoy her IT job, and she’s looking to expand her tech experience by working on a ship when she is done with her time at NHHC.
She expects to retire from the Navy after 20 years, but that isn’t where Munoz’s plans end.
“I want to go to college too,” said Munoz, sharing that once she is done with the military she plans to go into social work. “I hate to see kids being treated awful. I want to help kids.”
For now, she’ll concentrate on laying that wreath just right.