Cody Ayon grew up knowing that service is a way of life.
As the son of a Mexican mom and a Native American father, he grew up in Deming and learned that military service is both a meaningful part of his identity and a long family tradition with roots in the larger Indigenous community.
As a machinist’s mate in the Navy, Ayon was thrilled that life at sea opened up his world.
Six years later, when his enlistment came to an end, Capt. Ayon found himself missing that sense of purpose.
He enlisted in the New Mexico Army National Guard and would become a commissioned infantry officer overseeing a platoon that would lead him to the Iraq War.
Ahead of his deployment to Iraq, he participated in a tribal ceremony meant to prepare him, and he returned to a ritual gathering aimed at transitioning him back to society – all in recognition that war had the potential to change him.
By 2016, Ayon retired from the military. He works as a probation and parole officer for the state of New Mexico and lives with his family in Raton.
Ayon’s story is one of those featured in the four-part PBS series “American Veteran.” The first part airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26, on New Mexico PBS, Channel 5.1. The next three parts air at 8 p.m. Nov. 2, 9 and 16. It can also be viewed on the PBS Video app.
The veteran experience is traced through the four-part PBS series, a 10-part series of digital shorts and a nine-part podcast.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be part of this,” he says. “They reached out to me and asked if I’d like to be part of the program. I was very happy to be included. I’m a combat veteran.”
The series features the citizen-soldiers who fought in the nation’s earliest conflicts, to the men and women in today’s all-volunteer armed forces. It gives a rich and deeply moving story told through personal remembrances that draw civilian viewers into an unfamiliar culture.
Every voice in “American Veteran,” from hosts to interviewees, is that of a veteran. Their stories contribute to our evolving understanding of the relationship between Americans who have served and those who have not.
America is home to nearly 18 million military veterans, from the “Greatest Generation” to the men and women coming home from recent tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ayon says filming for his story took place in one day.
He flew to Salt Lake City for the on-camera interviews.
“I was given the opportunity to speak over the phone with PBS prior to it,” he says. “To be honest, I know that in my mind I feel that my story isn’t that great and there are other people’s stories that are more special than mine. But to be part of this narrative is amazing.”
Ayon says he was lucky to come back from his military service to the support of his family and community.
“Without that support, I don’t know where I’d be,” he says. “There are so many veterans who don’t have that support, and it’s tough for them to get acclimated back to life.”