Husband, dad, cop, Marine: 'I'd go if they called me today'

Tony Brown

When you think about how many Rex Rileys there are in the United States, you have to be impressed and grateful. Riley is just one of thousands of proud, brave men and women who answer their country’s call, go off to war, come home again and don’t seem to think much about it.

These days, Marine Sgt. Rex Riley is a Maryville police officer, and he certainly looks both parts. He’s deep-chested and broad-shouldered, and he has a Mohawk haircut, which, on him, looks good. He is deeply courteous in the practiced way of good soldiers and good cops, and he lets you know without saying a word about it that he’s tough as a boot.

He’s also a father and husband. He fell in love with Tanya at Northwest Missouri State, but then he got restless, figured college wasn’t for him, and joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1995. They got married, and Tanya Riley became a service wife. They have two young daughters, Brianna and Vanessa.

Riley did well in the Marines. He made sergeant, and after traveling the world ended up at Quantico, Va., as a weapons and marksmanship instructor. Of the many brutal arts of war, Marines prize marksmanship above all else. Only the best get to teach it. But it was peacetime, and Riley was told he could stay in the Corps only if he agreed to serve as a recruiter or a drill sergeant. He wasn’t interested. So he went home.

In fact, he did his exit interview on Sept. 11, 2001. He and some other departing Marines were on break, sitting in a lounge area watching TV, when the World Trade Center towers came down. Riley was hustled back to his quarters, put on alert and then told the next day — in that distant era before stop-loss — that he was discharged from active duty.

Riley moved back to Ravenwood where his family has farmed for decades. He worked road construction for a while, and then he joined the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Department, eventually moving over to Maryville Public Safety.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars came, and he watched them on TV. He sat in his living room and saw men he had trained engage in combat. He told his wife he was going back to the Corps. He joined the reserves thinking he would be assigned to an anti-tank unit. Instead, the Marines made him part of the Marine Military Police.

He spent most of a year in Iraq guarding convoys that transported supplies and Iraqi soldiers. It was dangerous work.

Then one day it was time for Sgt. Riley to go home again, go back to being a small-town cop. He works the midnight shift and helps his daughters with their homework in the afternoon. He spent years in uniform keeping us free. Now he spends nights in uniform keeping us safe. We could do worse.

“I’m glad I went back, and I would definitely do it again,” Riley said. “I served with a great group of Marines. I told my wife it’s out of my system, but I would go back if we went into Iran. I would re-enlist. I’d go if they called me today.”

Maryville Daily Forum