Story by Erika Pedroza

For Pia Pulido, Veterans Day carries a little more meaning.

She certainly celebrates the bravery of the courageous men and women who have defended the freedoms of the country, particularly the service of her 22-year-old stepson, Devyn Pulido.

But she honors more than his sacrifice during his four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“His service in the military was the best thing decision he could’ve made,” says Pulido. “It completely changed his life. But his decision was not all sunshine and roses. It was rough.”

Pia met Devyn when he was 3 years old and became his stepmom when she married his dad, Michael. As a young boy, he inspired Pia to change careers.

“When I met him, I had a different career from teaching. I did web marketing,” she says. “Then here comes this little boy who was so receptive to learning from me and looking at me as a role model. I thought, ‘Wow, if I can do this with this kid, I think I may be pretty good at doing this with other kids.’ He was really the main reason I switched careers.

But as he got older, there were struggles.

“We had to figure out what our roles were in each other’s lives,” she says. “I would ask, ‘Who am I to you? I’m here all the time, but I’m your stepmom.’ We had to learn how to love each other, because there are biological boundaries when you’re raising a child that’s not yours.”

Those challenges became more pronounced as Devyn became older and yearned independence. Although Devyn’s parents wanted him to attend college, he had other plans. Devyn, who attended Irving ISD’s Hanes Elementary, Crockett Middle and MacArthur High, graduated a year early, asked his parents to waive consent and enlisted in the military at age 17.

“He decided he wanted to make a decision about his own life,” says Pia. “Although we were uncomfortable, we had to support him. It was so rough as a parent.”

Upon graduation from high school, he left immediately for 12 weeks of boot camp in San Diego, Calif. Communication was limited, but Devyn did send a letter to his parents with rather pointed messaging.

“It was eye opening as a parent,” says Pia. “You think you’re doing everything right. But he just confronted everything – conflicts and problems. It hurt at first because it was everything that we supposedly didn’t do.”

But when Christmas time came, the gift Pia and her husband received was not wrapped and adorned with a bow. Their gift came in a transformed young man.

“The experience completely changed him,” says Pia. “It really did make a man out of him. He brought us gifts with his own money. He treats us to dinner now. He takes me out to lunch and dinner for Mother’s Day. Still weird to me because he pays for us.”

Devyn has landed a civilian job as an aviation technician at Texas Instruments and now serves in the reserves, reporting to base once a month for training. He was recently promoted to corporal, taking on more of a leadership role.

“He has really done this on his own,” says Pia. “He has a good-paying job, and he credits that to connections in the military. Although he never went the college route, he is living the life of a responsible, independent adult.”

Pia and Devyn proudly participated in the Travis Middle School Veterans Day celebration on Monday. The patriotic songs performed carried more meaning. Pia stood more proudly. Devyn basked in accomplishment. Both relish a stronger bond.

“People see the success, but the truth is you have to face obstacles first,” says Pia. “It won’t be easy, but it is possible. You just have to trust.

“I am so proud.”