Twentynine Palms --
>I’m from a little town called Foresthill in northern California. That’s where my dad lives.
>Even though I call Foresthill home, I’ve lived in several towns throughout northern California, including Sacramento, Auburn and Roseville. I moved around a lot, but I always stayed in northern California.
>I’m the oldest of six (soon to be seven) siblings between both parents. The next oldest, my brother, Andrew, is the only sibling that I’m 100% blood related to. My sister is expected to be born this month.
>My parents split up after Andrew was born, when I was two years old. He and I became very close. I’ve always felt that the oldest brother needs to look out for his younger brother and to help him if something is going on. Whenever I get a new brother or sister, I see it as another person that I can be there for. I know I will have an impact on their lives and, in some way, take care of them.
>When I was young, I thought my parents being apart was normal. It wasn’t until around 2nd grade that I realized that my family was different. It was hard and there were times when I was forced to choose between seeing my mom or hanging with my friends on the weekend. In the end, I chose my mom. Once I reached 6th grade, I began to accept it. I figured that there was nothing I could do about my parents’ relationship, so why not enjoy what I had.
>I would stay at my dad’s house during the week, so we didn’t get a lot of time to bond because I had school and he had work. When I went to my mom’s house on the weekend, we had a lot more time together. We’d play board games and card games and go out.
>My mom and I used to play a lot of games like Life, Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly. I tried Dungeons and Dragons for the first time when I was around 12 years old. It was like a video game, but I had full control of everything that happened with my character and the storyline.
>At first, we didn’t have a lot of video games at either of my parents’ houses. When I was around 8, my dad went out and bought me and my brother an X-Box and the first Halo game. Around the same time, my mom bought a PlayStation that my brother and I started playing. Playing video games was a way for me to bond with both of my parents.
>I love video games because it allows me to separate from reality and take part in something that I would never actually be able to experience.
>I joined the Marine Corps at the end of the summer after I graduated high school. I have family members who were in the military, but I was the first to join the Marine Corps.
>My recruiter came to me first. I was hesitant, because I wanted to talk to recruiters from other branches before I made my decision. After visiting the other recruiters, I realized the Marines had exactly what I was looking for. There was a sense of pride and camaraderie in the Marines that none of the other branches’ recruiters showed.
>My brother joined the Marines shortly after I did. I think when I joined I motivated him. We both have very similar mindsets and he was looking for the same thing as me.
>I’ve always been very stubborn. Over the years, I’ve been able to use my stubbornness in a productive matter. Whenever I’ve been challenged, or when I’ve had to push myself, my stubborn attitude would help me push through. It’s helped me to realize I’m capable of more than I thought.
> One thing I learned being in the Marines is that it’s ok to be wrong some times. Most people don’t like being or sounding wrong. You have to be humble and learn from your mistakes.
>My biggest role models in the Marine Corps have been Sgt. Alejandro Bedoya and Cpl. Julio McGraw.
>Bedoya was the first NCO who was in charge of me. He taught me a lot of important leadership fundamentals, and was immensely helpful and respectable. McGraw took over once Bedoya left. When Bedoya first left, there were some growing pains getting used to new leadership, but I could always go to McGraw if I needed help. McGraw has always been the guy who held the shop together. If there was a problem, he would always work with me to solve it so we could both learn from the experience.
>Words that I’ve always lived by are “who cares what people think?” If I’m doing something that I enjoy and someone has a problem with it, why would I let what they think dictate what I do. Don’t let what people think hold you back from doing what makes you happy.
>If I could go back to the moment I stepped on those yellow footprints and give myself some advice, I’d tell myself to enjoy every moment. Whether I had decided to stay in the Marines for twenty years or get out after four, like I soon will, eventually my career would’ve ended. Everything is temporary. Eventually everybody will move to different places and we won’t all be able to see each other as often, so enjoy every moment.