Raphael Tobias Swarez, nickname, Rafe. A second generation Puerto Rican American born and raised in the projects of Bed Stuy Brooklyn New York. He grew up the middle of seven children. His father, a CPA, struggled to make ends meet, refusing to allow his wife to work. In the house there were clear gender lines and not one of the boys was allowed in the kitchen or to do any work his mother considered “woman’s work.” He learned his place by his father’s example and his mothers broom. He spent his formative years attending Catholic school and was an alter boy for a short time.

Because of the neighborhood gangs, robberies, and murders; Rafe learned to fight. During Junior high school, he followed an older brother into the local gym where he learned to box.  He knew early on he wasn’t going to make more than passing marks in school and despite the initial hope that he could make a career of boxing; Rafe started looking  to the military when his best friend Brent was killed in a drive by shooting.

Worried Rafe would suffer the same fate as his friend, his parent’s agreed to allow him to join the military at seventeen. Rafe swore into the Air Force, going to basic training between his junior and senior year of high school, then tech school shortly after graduation.  With his good looks and a reputation as a bad boy, he left behind a string of girls who had hoped to marry him. His biggest disappointment in the decision to go into the military came when he was unable to be part of the official boxing team.

Rafe’s first look at the world beyond his neighborhood was the middle of nowhere Texas for basic training and a huge culture shock.  A year later when he returned to the area for tech school he was prepared for the differences and by the time he arrived at his first base, he had learned to appreciate the quiet slow pace. What he hadn’t anticipated was the colonel, his commanding officer’s control over every aspect of his life, both while on duty and off.

How would the colonel describe Rafe. “He’s a dedicated young man who could have made a great leader if he’d applied himself more and kept his pecker in his pants.  He had potential, but made some bad choices.”

Who does he tell his secrets to? While growing up it was Brent, since joining the military, he’s confided in only his commanding officer’s daughter. To this day there are things no one knows but Alex, and truths he’ll admit to no one else.

If there’s anything Rafe detests it’s dishonesty, lies, though he admits to telling more than a few of his own. More than the lies he’s told, he hates that when he was younger he kept his mouth shut about suspected atrocities in order to save his career. Not his only regret, it is the one that keeps him up at night.

As for faults, Alex would say his major fault is that he is a model soldier, blindly following orders without question.

For most of his Air Force career he had the same commander except for the years spent overseas. Nearing his sixteenth year of service, a disagreement… Rafe flat out disobeyed an order, nearly cost him his career. Because his commander wanted to throw the book at him Rafe was forced to switch military branches to avoid a dishonourable discharge and possible brig time.  After that incident, Rafe lost confidence in the military and when his enlistment was up, he retired to join  DHS (Department of Homeland Security).

Closing in on fifty, Rafe has been married for two years. He met his wife at a bar in Baton Rouge Louisiana while working a case with the DHS. Robin is a wild red head, five years his senior and has a multitude of tattoos. When he met her, she had a four-year-old son and had recently become a window. Rafe adopted the boy and together they have a three year old daughter.

Does Rafe have any distinguishing features? A crooked nose broken during his first boxing match. Rafe has always kept his hair short in what is referred to as a high and tight, even after going to DHS, but on vacation or over a long weekend, he likes to let it grow a little longer and sports a goatee with just the line of hair at his jaw line. He has a hard time buying shirts off the rack because of his wide shoulders and large neck. He can still remember being bullied as a boy for the feature.

Rafe has been in love twice, he’s had his heart broken once and will never forget it or the truth in the matter. He’d been wrong.

Physical fitness is important to Rafe, as is supporting his community. He volunteers at a local boxing gym and often spars with up and coming young boys. One of his best days  was meeting his childhood hero, heavy weight boxing champ Joe Louis.

His favorite food is a mixture between his mother’s Puerto Rican recipes and Robin’s Cajun cooking. Thankfully, he has a stomach of iron. He prefers to sleep in the nude, but has recently made concessions because of his daughter and sleeps in boxer briefs.

When it all said and done, Rafe hopes he’ll die in service to his country.

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