Angel Gabriel Jaramillo, 22
Angel Gabriel Jaramillo
Photo: Virgil Magee
Born and raised: East Los Angeles, California
Graduate of: John Muir High School
Sergeant Angel Jaramillo is a logistics specialist responsible for helping to move troops, supplies and security at a desert air base in Southwest Asia. Angel serves with members from all the military services and several coalition partners in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Angel's goals in the Marine Corps include serving his country for at least 20 years, completing his education, seeing the world and becoming a role model.
First, I would like to say thanks to MTV once again for giving me a way to share my thoughts and feelings with all my fellow Americans back at home. Today I received my first letters from people back in the States. I never thought I would see myself tearing over letters sent to me from people that I don't even know. If only you could see the words that were expressed to me, you would understand why a 22-year-old old Marine finds himself letting tears run down his face. I guess it's the fact of coming from a place where I was used to being judged as a criminal and having people walk around me because they didn't know whether I was just walking by or getting ready to rob them.
It feels bad when society looks at you and can't trust you. But today I realize that society has changed the way they see me, and it makes me feel good to know that. It gives me strength and more of a reason to be here doing what I have to do to protect you.
To Chris, Jennifer, Celia, Jessie and Michelle, I want to let you know that your letters are the ones I received today. I really appreciate all of you for taking a minute of your time to write back to me. It felt really good to know that people actually took the time to express their feelings to me and to be honest, it touched me. I guess being a Marine, I thought people saw us as nothing more than fighting machines. But before any of that we are human, just as you are. And just like any other human being we have this thing called a heart.
To Michelle (Tampa, Forida), I want to wish you luck on your graduation and future endeavors. Also, you mentioned that you're enlisting in the United States Marines. As a sergeant in the Marines and from the experience of being a Marine, I want to let you know that anyone can be a United States Marine. It just depends on how much you want it and how far you're willing to go in order to become one. So keep your head up and go for it. Who knows, maybe someday you'll find yourself working for me.
Today I find myself in day 86 here in Southwest Asia I also found out that maybe by the end of this month I will be going to meet up with my original unit ... Finally! I guess my time of sitting here in desperate need of being reunited with my unit might finally be over.
Being here with the Air Force has been a good experience, but I feel like a little birdie taken out of his nest. I have about 37 Marines in my unit that I'm pretty sure need me there with them. I know that's where I belong. So as I wait here I keep on marking the days off the calendar and wait until there's no more days to mark. But for now I ask all of you for one big favor ... don't forget we are here for you.
What's up MTV,
My name is Angel Gabriel Jaramillo. I was born on December 29, 1980, in East Los Angeles, California. I'm an ex-gang member who was given a second chance at life. I used to be known around the Los Angeles County area as LiL Badboy, but to me that individual no longer exists. I graduated on June 23, 1999 from John Muir High School in Pasadena, California. Five days after my graduation, I was on a bus headed towards the beginning of my new life: the life of a Unites States Marine.
I've been in the Marines for three years, nine months and several days, and I can honestly say that I don't regret joining at all. Being in the Marines has given me the chance to actually be someone important and work my way to the top. Ever since day one, I set goals for myself in which I work every day to accomplish. My main goal is to serve my country proudly, for no less than 20 years. After that, I want to become a probation officer and work with gang members all over the Los Angeles area. I think that with the help of god and the way that I've been working towards it ... I don't see it being a problem for me to accomplish my mission.
First of all, I would like to let you know that it feels good to be given the opportunity to describe to you how life has been for me in the United States Marines. Who knows ... maybe this letter will also help as guidance to some of you who get the chance to read this. As you might already know, I came from one of the toughest neighborhoods in the entire United States. The City of Los Angeles, California, where life as a low-income minority usually takes you into gangs and violence As an ex-gang member I can tell you that that's just the way it happens. Luckily, I was one of the few that gets a second chance at life. A second chance to get on your two feet and struggle to become somebody. Rather than that one individual that finds himself doing harm to other people for fun, or stealing anything within sight just to be able to have the luxuries that other hard-working people have.
I remember it was September 1991, the day that I got initiated to my gang by a 30-second beating. It was the only initiation that would let the heads of the gangs know that you were able to stand up for the name of that neighborhood, without giving up the fight. Back then I was only 11 years old. Instead of playing video games and collecting baseball cards, I was out in the dark streets, like a busy little bee, trying my best to follow my brother's footsteps. I never had a positive role model in front of my eyes. Back then to me the definition of positive was seeing my brothers go out with their friends and come back home late at night with their pockets full of money. I thought to myself, "So that's the way my brother gets whatever he wants." Right then I knew I wanted the same, so the first chance that I got to become part of the neighborhood, I did. That's how LiL BadBoy was born.
I have to be honest with you, at the beginning it seemed as if my life were going so good and I pictured myself living like that for the rest of my life. But I was wrong. I had just made my decision of joining the gang by looking at the good side of My Vida Loca (My Crazy Life). I never stopped to think what happened when rival gangs catch you alone in the dark streets. Never stopped to think when could it have been my turn to be sitting there and catch the first bullets that were shot at us. Most important of all, I never stopped to think of all the damage that I would cause to my beloved mother. All her struggles and 16-hour working days that she would do just to keep clothes on our back and food on our table, were now worthless. That along with the hole that I now have on my head from being stabbed, the scars on my arms and head, and finding out that I was going to be a dad, was more than enough to realize that I was worthless. I was just another kid from the barrio that would fall under that percentage of screw-ups in society. So desperately I turned my life around and searched for the real me.
In 1999 I graduated from high school with the lowest GPA in my class. That didn't matter to me, though. I still walked across that stage with my chin up in the sky, while my mother teared up in the front row seats of the auditorium. Deep inside I felt as if I was done finding the real me. I thought I was someone else already because I had accomplished something and I no longer felt worthless. Until my mother asked me, "What's next son?" Five days after my graduation I was on a bus that was headed towards Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. That is the place where everyone goes for 13 weeks and earns the title. The title of being a United States Marine.
Out of 469 recruits that arrived there with me, only 404 earned the title. With me being the Company Honor man (honor grad). I went from being the one with the lowest GPA to being the one that overcame any obstacle to be considered the best. Yet I didn't think I was done finding the real me. What else was left? I don't know, maybe it was a college degree or something that would let people know that I was somebody. But writing this article for you guys gave me the answer to my question. I realized that I had done a complete 180. The thing was that I didn't do it by myself. I had a lot of people helping me out. From teachers to policemen. From friends to family. So once again I asked myself, what else is left? I need to use my life story to help others. All the others that are in the low-income families like I was. All the others that think gangbanging is the only way of life. All the others that do wrong to impress or fit in a crowd. So if you're reading this and you fall under one of these, take my word for it and don't find out the hard way because not everyone gets a second chance.
After graduating boot camp, I received orders to Marine Combat Training in Camp Pendleton, California. There I spent 18 days learning all the skills of a basic rifleman. From hand grenades to automatic weapons. Eighteen days with only one shower. Eighteen days of only five hours of sleep per day. But that's just all part of the making of a U.S Marine. Once I finished there I got lucky and got sent to a Combat Service Support Group in Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
There I was part of one of the biggest Combat Support Groups that the Marine Corps has in the entire Pacific. I served there for 31 months total. In those 31 months I completed 90 percent of my coursework toward an A.A. degree in Criminal Justice. I attended Chaminade University of Hawaii. On October 1, 2002 I decided that I wanted to continue to be a Marine because everything was going so good for me and I was afraid to go back to the same old things. So I re-enlisted for another four years of service. Upon re-enlisting I received orders to 1st Fighting Service Support group in Camp Pendleton. There I got attached to a Landing Support Company. Two months after I got there they told me that I might be deploying somewhere in Southwest Asia My answer to that was when and where. With everything that was happening I was ready to go anywhere and do whatever I needed to do to help protect our country.
Right now I'm attached to a joint command in Saudi Arabia. It's called the Combined Forces Air Component Command. Here there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. I'm in the logistics support unit. Here we handle the security badges for the buildings where many top decision-makers work. We also supply every other unit that works around us with anything they need. To be honest I sit here like a little kid waiting to go to the arcade. I sit here desperately waiting for my time to be up here so I can get closer to the war and go join the rest of my Marines. I just feel that I can make more of a difference being in the front lines with the rest of my Marines, but if this is where the country wants me, this is where I will serve.
I've been here since January 6, 2003 and I don't know how much longer I will be here. Once they let me leave Saudi Arabia it's a 90 percent chance that I will be going somewhere in Kuwait (next to Iraq) to meet up with my original unit. Back to what I like doing best and back with the Marines that I belong to. But until that day comes, I still give it my best at whatever I have to do on this side of the globe, while we all go through this war as a country. To all you who read this article, on behalf of the United States Armed Forces, I would like to say that we are all here to protect everyone back in the United States and we don't hesitate in doing it because we are and always will be one. Keep us in your prayers always, as you are in mine.
SGT Jaramillo, A.G.
United States Marines
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