John is the son of a Mexican American family of four in southeast San Antonio, a United States Marine Corps veteran, a dedicated father and husband, a devoted parishioner at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, and a proud Texan. Over the past twenty years, John has journeyed from military bases and foreign battlefields to higher education institutions and through federal agencies building the skills, knowledge, and commitment to public service needed to be an effective and visionary leader fighting for working Texans.
John comes from a working-class family of assembly line workers, office assistants, beauticians, musicians, and oilfield workers whose strong work ethic taught him to value and take pride in hard work. Although his father worked graveyard shifts to earn extra night differential pay and his mother took on two jobs, money was still tight and like many, his family was able to qualify for free lunches and low-cost health insurance which kept his small family healthy. Eager to help support his family, John got his first job at 16 bussing tables at a restaurant on the Riverwalk.
After the tragic loss of his great uncle Alfonso Valdez, who was among the 167 government workers who perished in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, John witnessed firsthand the honor and sacrifice of public service. Four years later, his own journey of service would begin as he raised his right hand and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
John served for 11 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, on active duty, and in the reserves, including two combat tours in Iraq. In 2003, he participated in the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Marine Division and volunteered for a second deployment with 4th Reconnaissance Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines a year and a half later. During one of the deadliest months of his second deployment, John became a father to his daughter, Rozlyn.
After returning to civilian life, John used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn an associate’s degree from San Antonio College and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy and management at Carnegie Mellon University.
John’s passion to serve on the frontlines of public policy led him to the Corporation for National and Community Service, where he empowered community organizations to support veterans and military family transitions. At the U.S. Small Business Administration, he helped reverse the generational decline of veterans’ entrepreneurship. John also worked at the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, created by Senators John McCain and Jack Reed to develop policies aimed at reviving an ethos of service in America. From busboy to emerging policy leader, John’s experience developing, helping to pass, and implementing national policies has fueled his desire to continue working to address the Nation’s needs.
John is married to Dr. Michelle Espino Lira and has a teenage daughter named Rozlyn.
After a lifetime of service to his country, John now stands ready to answer the next call: serving Texans as the next congressman from Texas’s 23rd Congressional District.
Use of photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Marines or the Department of Defense.