Keith Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare in Stanwood. The Purple Heart recipient has nerve damage in his feet from blast injuries. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Keith Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare in Stanwood. The Purple Heart recipient has nerve damage in his feet from blast injuries. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

STANWOOD — The email to The Daily Herald’s newstips address wasn’t the usual dry stuff.

It was sent by a “MALE Wounded Warrior” telling about the great pedicures he gets at a nail salon.

MALE was in caps.

“Even tough guys need TLC,” he wrote.

What’s up with that?

Keith Reyes, 64, is a decorated veteran with pretty feet.

Reyes, a former U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman diver and instructor, is a Purple Heart recipient. He left Kansas after high school to serve in the Navy from 1976 to 1996. He later was a corrections deputy with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

About every month, his macho MALE feet get rubbed, scrubbed and lotioned at Nail Flare in downtown Stanwood.

“Foot treatments,” he calls it.

“I’m usually the only dude in there,” Reyes said.

He was the day we met up at the cozy yet chic Stanwood salon with galvanized tubs.

“It’s kind of like covert operations,” he said. “I kind of slide in there.”

He wore dark glasses, a black Wounded Warrior T-shirt and camouflage shorts. He sat at the end, away from the female chatter, a stoic gray-bearded figure with size 10½ boots on the floor.

After a foot soak in a tub of warm water, Reyes stretched out his tattooed legs and stuck out his toes.

Salon owner Laura Finsen used a file to scrape the dead skin off his pinkish feet. He didn’t giggle or scream.

Reyes has nerve damage and other injuries from military duty.

Laura Finsen, owner of Nail Flare in Stanwood, works on Keith Reyes’ feet. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Laura Finsen, owner of Nail Flare in Stanwood, works on Keith Reyes’ feet. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“This foot had a Humvee run over it,” he said. “I have blast injuries left and right.”

He doesn’t discuss his Navy missions with people or his “foot treatments” with other veterans. He is active in the Military Order of The Purple Heart and other groups.

“I don’t talk about my feet with other men or other people,” he said. “I don’t discuss my injuries. Guys like us, we don’t really talk about it. I don’t talk to a lot of other people, per se. I am pretty reclusive.”

He wears military T-shirts and hats to show pride, not to engage conversation.

Don’t get him started on the ridiculous things civilians ask or say.

“Some people think it’s cool to be a Purple Heart recipient,” he said. “Can you tell me one thing that’s cool to be wounded in combat in any way, shape or form? Go stand out in front of a bus and get hit by the bus. Imagine that bus being a blast, and surviving that blast, then doing it again and multiplying it times 100.”

(Better to just say, “Thank you for your service.”)

His feet were a constant annoyance for years.

“The VA will cut your toenails, but it’s not like they’ll give you TLC and put your feet in hot water,” he said.

His wife, Kari, gave him marching orders to the nail salon about four years ago.

“We’ve had two doctors now give kudos that he is getting these done,” she said. “One VA doctor and podiatrist said they can tell the difference by looking at the health of his feet.”

He’s glad he listened but still wasn’t about to boast the benefits of going to a nail salon to other vets.

Instead, he told reporters. Go figure.

He said he sent the email to The Herald to praise Finsen’s nail salon.

“Her business has made a good impression on me,” he said. “Make the story about her, not me.”

It would be a better story if Finsen painted his nails.

He doesn’t get polish. Never has, never will. No manicure, either.

He let his daughter, now 13, paint his fingernails pink when she was little. That was different, he said.

Men’s feet are, well, kind of gnarly in general, in part because they tend to not care about making them look good.

But it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

“I feel women have worse feet than men because they tend to have more calloused areas and dry skin,” Finsen said.

A few other older guys are regulars.

“More are becoming recurring customers for the health and well-being of their feet,” she said.

Men don’t like to feel vulnerable, she said, so it takes finding a salon “where they can say, ‘Hey, that hurts’ or ‘That tickles.’ And making them feel they’re not doing something too girly or outside their comfort zone.”

A few get polish, typically Seahawks colors or black.

In South Carolina, guys can luxuriate in their own space at The Man Cave Nailcare for Gentlemen. The men-only salon has an 86-inch TV mounted on the wall for those getting a “Not Your Average Joe” pedicure and other treatments. The waiting area has a pool table.

For Reyes, all he needs from a salon is an end seat and to not engage in chitchat. Talking to Finsen is the exception.

He drives to the “foot appointments” in his Hummer with an “I Hate People” bumper sticker, stopping at the ampm station for his favorite drink, a $2 French vanilla cappuccino.

The spa session is refreshing for this MALE.

“It’s a whole new sensation, like you have a whole new set of skin,” Reyes said. “It puts me in a happy place.”

He almost smiled when he said it.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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