Monday, August 22, 2005

In the Sandbox...

New citizen serving his adopted country as a Marine
"CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 21, 2005) -- Some people are destined to serve, even if it is in the new country they have adopted. In 1995, as a young teenager growing up in Haiti, Cpl. Berony Nelson remembers seeing U.S. Marines conducting security operations and humanitarian missions there.

“I remember seeing Marines trying to help out,” said the 24-year-old Marine currently serving in Iraq. “I wanted to join them and be like one of them. I always wanted to be in the military.”

Today, the Haitian immigrant-turned U.S. Marine and American citizen has spent more time serving in the military of his adopted nation than he has as a civilian living there.

“I did school for three years [in the states] then I joined the Marine Corps,” said the native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti who joined in 2001. “I’ve been in the Marine Corps longer than I have been as a civilian in the United States.”

Deployed to the Middle East for the second time with Food Services section, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD), Nelson remembers following his father’s footsteps to America as a young 17-year-old in 1998.

“I came for a better life,” said the sergeant of the guard of a dining facility here. “Life was hard in Haiti and we wanted to live together as a family.”

Nelson, his older brother and his mother joined their father and eventually settled in Immokalee, Fla. Not knowing any English, the tall, slim Marine went to Immokalee High School for three years, graduating there in 2001.

“I had to learn English but it wasn’t too difficult,” said Nelson with traces of a Haitian accent in his speech. “I learned English from other people talking and it has actually improved in the Marine Corps.”

Nelson mentioned why he joined the Marine Corps. He wanted to travel and meet people from different places throughout the United States and from around the world.

“There is a lot of stuff you can do in the Corps, said the trained food service specialist. “I wanted to go to different places and deal with people from different cultures, and [as a Marine] you live with people from different places back in the states.”

A sense of duty was also felt inside the young man when America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I already knew I was going,” said Nelson of deciding to join the Corps. “But after 9/11, [the attacks] did have an affect on me. I wanted to get to [boot camp] quicker and I wanted to do my part in the country I lived in.”

Nelson went to boot camp at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot, Parris Island, S.C., three months after the attacks. The native of the tropical Caribbean, remembers experiencing the harsh winter and snow for the first time there.

“The first time I saw snow was in boot camp,” he said. “It was so cold at the rifle range. It was the coldest time I’ve ever experienced.”

Despite the cold experienced at boot camp and the soaring heat felt in the Middle East, that is what the teenage immigrant who became a Marine and a citizen wanted to do.

There are no reservations in the speech of this proud American.

“The Marine Corps was the toughest branch and I wanted to be with the best,” he said. “I like the way Marines carry themselves. If you go anywhere people already know who you are, just by the way you talk, the way you act and how you carry yourself.”Marine Corps News)

...girls of the Corps...
One, Two, Three, Four, Five

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