It was the last day of the crucible, a three-day challenge that every Marine must complete in boot camp in order to join the ranks of the Corps. We were at Camp Pendleton. The day began at zero dark thirty. My hands shivered from the cold, my desert “cammies” smelled like a wrestler’s locker, and my back felt stiff from the hard floor we slept on that night. While my body was in pain, I tried to hide the discomfort by keeping my head high and standing tall in formation. With a calm voice, a confident posture, and a smooth stride, Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Jones walked back and forth, explaining how our last event was going to push us beyond our limits. With a sudden gesture, Staff Sergeant Jones pointed at the peak of a high mountain and said, “Gentlemen: that is where we are going. IF you accept, and IF you complete this challenge then MAYBE you can be a part of the elite few.” Hearing these words moments from my childhood flashed through my mind.
I remembered the community I had been part of during my childhood. I had been raised in a predominately Latino community in Los Angeles, where many people did not have patriotic feelings about the United States. That was because Latino families were not happy with the American immigration policies. My parents had been deported and sent to their motherland. As a Latino in America, I felt confused about where I belonged. I was always searching for a place to fit in and trying to figure out my role in my Latino community. In grade school,I played football. When I was appointed captain of the team because of my ability to play and lead, I felt validated by others and I felt like I could fit in as an American. Even though I tried to reinforce my identity as an American by playing football, I still did not feel like I was in the right “place,” because Latinos typically played futbòl; not NFL football. Now, seeing that high mountain, I realized I had the opportunity to become a United States Marine, and not a Latino Marine. On that day when Staff Sergeant Jones challenged us to exceed our limits, what led and pushed me up that mountain was the chance to establish my identity as a member of the community of “The Few, The Proud, The Marines.”
Mario Sibrian: United States Marine Corps Veteran served five years active and one year in the reserves. Stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii with units: 1st Battalion 12th Marines, Headquarters Battalion, and Command Staff as the the Base Commander’s Protocol Non-Commissioned Officer. After concluding his service, he returned to his hometown in Los Angeles, CA. Currently studying Communications with a minor in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego.