Diaz poses with his family: his wife Melinda Diaz and sons, Alejandro and Gabriel Diaz. (Photo provided by Roland Diaz)
Diaz poses with his family: his wife Melinda Diaz and sons, Alejandro and Gabriel Diaz. (Photo provided by Roland Diaz)

A true Marine

Roland Diaz was surrounded by his fellow Marines, preparing to board the ship back to America. It was the end of the war, and, seeing the helicopters dotted throughout the sky, he realized he made it: he was going home.

Money Matters and Principles of Business teacher Roland Diaz came from a poor family and began working in cotton fields when he was 8 years old. He and his brother are first generation high school graduates, and he said he knew it would be a big step to go straight into college. So, when he got the opportunity to join the Marines in 1997, he took it.

“I got visited by a recruiter, and I was told I was too small, wasn’t strong enough [and] couldn’t join the Elite Force,” Diaz said. “I kind of went against the grain — I said, OK, I can do it. I’m going to join the Marine Corps.’”

He joined the All-Marine Boxing Team soon after joining the Marines, and began winning tournaments. Diaz became an All-Marine Hall of Fame Boxer and was No. 1 in his weight class. In his initial tournament, he made it to finals, but ultimately lost. However, he was still accepted onto the team. 

“[The team] took him because he has so much heart,” fellow marine Roberto Castillo said. “After that, nobody could beat him. He even beat ranking boxers when we went to nationals. He never boxed before the Marine Corps, and I’ve never seen a guy like that. He was unbeatable.”

Diaz had almost finished his enlistment when, on 9/11, planes hit the twin towers in New York City. Only 32 hours minutes after the attack, his unit was sent to war in Afghanistan.

“I grew up really, really fast,” Diaz said. “I was in charge of 20 Marines at the age of 20 years old, so being responsible for young and older men at that age was kind of tough for me. Taking on that responsibility, coming back home and not coming back [with] all my Marines was really tough.”

Castillo describes Diaz with the Bible verse John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

“[Roland] is a true Marine in my mind,” Castillo said. “He’s been a boxer, he’s been a friend. Now, I still talk about him when I go to church. I talk about him when I’m with friends, when I’m at boxing matches. The Marine Corps has this phrase: ‘Always faithful, never leave a man behind.’ Roland is that man.” 

Diaz spent six years in the Marines. After he got out, he went to college at West Texas A&M and began teaching. 

“When I look back at [my life] now, I realize, ‘wow, I went through a lot of things,’” Diaz said. “I realized that most of our culture does, and so I joined the teaching profession to make [students] understand that you do go through that stuff, and that it’s possible to still succeed.”

Diaz has been teaching for 15 years and said he values respect and likes to lead by example. This is his first year teaching at Hebron.

“[Roland] is fair,” wife Melinda Diaz said. “Sometimes, his passion can be mistaken for being hard on people, but he genuinely loves what he does. Whether it be coaching or teaching, that’s the way he always has been. He has letters and letters from students over the years that prove they appreciate that he’s [their] biggest cheerleader — but he’ll also tell you if you’re messing up.”

Diaz and Melinda have been married for 20 years and they have two sons, Alejandro and Gabriel. 

“Going through an experience like that, everybody learns different things,” Diaz said. “I guess the biggest lesson I learned from there is that family is the most important thing. Now, I kind of block out everybody else when it comes to my family because I realized all the things I took for granted.”


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