"You saw things blow up and you got shot at," she said.
"I don't remember much," she said. "I was in and out of consciousness."
Her left leg was nearly destroyed, her lungs had collapsed, her colon was damaged, she had a brain injury and flesh had burned off her withered left leg. Doctors patched her together and she was flown to Germany for treatment, but she has no recollection of any of that. Next she was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for months of treatment and too many surgeries to count.
"They told my family, like, 'I don't think she's going to make it.' "
But Reyes fought through the physical injuries and then the psychological ones as well. She found herself conflicted about the war itself, troubled by all the death and suffering and crushed by the thought of being disabled for life. Once she returned to California, she was deeply depressed, had trouble sleeping and weighed only 80 pounds.
And they wanted her to go surfing?
All right, she said.
"I was so scared the first time. I was so weak."
Reyes had to be helped into the water, but there she was on a board, confronting her fears, wiping out and trying again. In her third outing last week, she was standing up with help from instructors and riding waves. Before I knew her story, I was in the water and saw Reyes paddling by me with a smile on her face. The wetsuit covered her scars, which was why I assumed she was one of the instructors.
Later, as she told me her tale on the beach, she was charming and self-possessed, and funny too.
"I did some cool things in the Army," she said, "but blowing up was a negative."
At an awards ceremony after the surfing, Dirk Ortega, who was badly injured in training before he shipped out with his army unit, was named the most inspirational vet on a board.
Pineda got an award for riding the longest wave.
And Reyes was named
the hardest charger, a reference to more than the way she surfs.