Twentynine Palms -- >I was born in Miami, Florida But when I was 1 years old, my mother took me back home to the rest of my family in Ecuador, where I lived until I was 10 years old.
>Family is important to me and its hard being so detached. There are times where I really need them. I am the first person in my family to join the armed forces.
>I enjoyed Ecuador because I was with my family. Moving back to the United States made it harder to keep in contact with everyone. I came back with my grandmother and it was just the two of us for most of my life.
>I was only 13 when I started my freshman year of high school. The hardest part about coming to a new country was being in high school at such a young age, and I really struggled with the language barrier.
> One of my favorite parts of high school was the diversity. My school had Haitians, Jamaicans, Hispanics, African Americans and Jewish students, and although we came from different walks of life we were all able to come together and get through school. We even spent days celebrating each other’s cultures and beliefs.
>While I was in high school I was in ROTC for the Navy, which is what first piqued my interest in the military. I wanted to join the Navy originally because of the medical occupations that they offer. I found out in ROTC that I loved drill, and I was chosen to be a platoon commander for the program.
>I changed my mind to join the Marine Corps because of one of my friends, Martinez, who was recruiting in the Marine Corps. He would always run with me and said that I would be a great fit for the Corps. I remember when he told me that the Marine Corps has the best drill. He motivated me to become the Marine I am today.
>I was the only student in my high school class to graduate at the age of 16. This is when things got difficult because I had to grow up fast if I wanted to make a successful life for myself.
> I had the plan of becoming a United States Marine after I graduated, but at the time I was only 16 so I had to wait until I was 17 to get my grandmother to sign the papers. She thought I was too young at first, but I was finally able to convince her that it was a good idea.
>I went to a community college while I waited to join, to study Biopsychology. This is the study of how emotions, thoughts and behaviors are affected by the brain, the nervous system and neurotransmitters in humans and non-humans.
>I would say that the person I look up to the most would be my grandmother. She inspires me every day because she brought me from a comfortable place to an uncomfortable place to make me better. She did everything for me by herself and is a very independent woman.
>She taught me to aim high. That way, even if I don’t achieve my goal, I made it further then I would have if I aimed low, and I’ll be able to say that I at the very least put forward a genuine effort to reach the highest goals.
>The Marine Corps has been an interesting journey so far. I am learning to respect myself and to expect more for my life. I have changed a lot during my time in and I am figuring out what is really important to me.
>I am most passionate about being successful and doing the best at my job, while staying humble so I can be a leader that my junior Marines can look up to.