Military father, son happily reunited
Whenever Xavier Espinoza’s father was sent on an Army deployment, he instructed Xavier that he would be the “man of the house” while he was gone and had to be strong.
“It was different growing up in a military family, but Mom was always strong and supportive, and that made me strong, too,” Xavier said.
Jose Espinoza is a career military officer stationed at Fort Riley. He has gone on five deployments over the course of 22½ years.
Xavier, a Centre High School senior, is the only male sibling in a family of eight children, with five younger sisters. His family moved to Lincolnville in 2013.
To the disappointment of the whole family, their father was deployed to Poland last fall.
“I saw one football game before I left,” he said.
As on earlier deployments, he would miss many of his children’s school activities. His twin daughters, Alyssa and Samantha, are sophomores and play on the basketball team. Lili, an eighth-grader, plays middle-school sports. Trinity is in fifth grade and Sophie in second grade.
Xavier’s mother, Jennifer, is an assistant girls’ coach in junior high and high school volleyball and basketball.
Espinoza surprised his family by returning to Lincolnville on Jan. 29. He was able to arrange with another army major at Ft. Riley to take his place in Poland.
Jennifer said she was notified of his return but has always made it a surprise for the children because she hated to see them let down if the return date changed.
Xavier has been active in sports all his life. The 18-year-old is president of his senior class. Under three different head coaches, he has played many positions in football, including quarterback, receiver, and defensive safety. He has been selected to play in an all-star football game in June in Beloit.
After generally being the leading scorer on his basketball team this year, he was set back after sustaining an ankle injury and foot injury in two separate incidents the last two weeks of the season.
Ironically, Xavier may be playing the last game of his high school career at Xavier High School in Junction City. He was hoping to play in the first round of the regional tournament.
“I want to play, but if I can’t, I’ll look forward to track,” he said.
If the team wins the game and advances, Xavier may have another chance to play Friday in the semi-finals at Lebo.
He is planning to attend Emporia State University or Hutchinson Community College after graduation and study physical education.
“I want to be close to home, so I can come home and watch Allie play ball,” he said, speaking of his girlfriend, Allie Hurd.
He said living in a small community “out in the middle of nowhere” is different from living in a city.
“It humbles you,” he said. “You know everybody and everybody knows you, whether you like it or not. They know everything you are doing.”
As for his father, Jose, he is hoping to retire from the Army in 2½ years after 25 years in the military.
He said he has tried to create a stable life that allows Xavier and the other children to form longtime relationships that can help them grow and prosper.
“I’m proud of all of them,” he said.
Last modified Feb. 21, 2019