Pvt. Sean L. Ontiveros, Platoon 2129, Fox Company, 2nd Recruit
Training Battalion, overcame family hardships to become a part of
the brotherhood in the United States Marine Corps.
was born, and spent the beginning part of his childhood, in El Paso,
Texas. His father left when he was five, but he was lucky enough to
have his grandfather there to spend a lot of time with him. Over the
years Ontiveros grew very close to his grandfather and learned a lot
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. -
Pvt. Sean L. Ontiveros, Platoon 2129, Fox Company, 2nd Recruit
Training Battalion, provides security during a Crucible event at
Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept.
30, 2014. Ontiveros endured family hardship and slept in a park
before shipping out to recruit training to accomplish his goal of
becoming a United States Marine.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle)
“My grandfather loved watching NASCAR and the Game Show
Network,” said Ontiveros, who was recruited out of
Recruiting Sub-Station Tempe, Ariz. “He and I would watch it
together for hours. He also loved to bake. We used to bake
cookies all the time.”
Ontiveros recalled that when
he was around the age of 10 or 11, his grandfather passed
away from lung cancer. He had lost his best friend and was
lost in his emotions.
“It was hard to go back to
school and try to concentrate,” said Ontiveros. “All I could think about was my
His grandfather's death had a huge
impact on his life, but the impact also greatly affected his
mother. She felt she needed to move to help get over her
grief, so Ontiveros, his older sister and mother set off on
a new journey.
“My mom didn't want to live in El Paso
anymore because it reminded her so much of my grandfather,”
said Ontiveros. “We ended up moving to Phoenix, Arizona.”
With El Paso behind him, Ontiveros moved forward and
continued on through middle school and high school.
Unfortunately, though, tragedy struck again.
sophomore year of high school my mom was injured in a car
accident,” said Ontiveros. “The accident worsened a previous
back injury and caused extensive nerve damage, resulting in
her becoming disabled. It was hard to watch her because she
was in pain all the time.”
His mom was no longer able
to work, and the difficulties became too much for her, which
resulted in her decision to move back to El Paso to be with
close relatives. Ontiveros, who was going into his senior
year of high school, wanted to stay in Phoenix.
had been living in Phoenix for so long that it became my
home, not El Paso,” said Ontiveros. “I had already started
talking to recruiters to join the military and just wanted
to finish my senior year of school there.”
mind made up, Ontiveros' mom sold all of her possessions to
make the move as simple as possible, including his items as
well, even though he decided to stay.
“My mom ended
up just selling everything she could, including the majority
of my possessions,” said Ontiveros. “All I have left fits in
a duffle bag and a laundry basket.”
with an uncle in Phoenix, but halfway through his senior
school year was forced to move out. With duffle bag and
laundry basket in hand, he had no place to go.
I got kicked out, I slept in a park,” said Ontiveros. “My
mom would put $20 a week into my bank account, and I would
use that to buy bus passes to get around town, to church and
to recruiter events.”
Ontiveros was dealing with his
mother's injuries and homelessness, but he was constantly
talking to recruiters about joining the military.
“It was all about just graduating high school,” said
Ontiveros. “Once I had that, I could walk into the
recruiters office and say ‘I have my diploma, I'm 18, what
else do I need to do to join the military?'”
According to Ontiveros, his grandfather had served in the
Army, and though he was retired, still maintained his
military bearing and discipline. It was what motivated him
at a young age to want to join.
“He was very
instrumental in me being interested in joining the
military,” said Ontiveros. “I knew from a young age that I
wanted to join; it was always something I was dead set on.”
Ontiveros originally had no interest in joining the
Marines, but always saw a recruiter at his school with the
pull-up bar station or handing out free stickers, water
bottles or lanyards. When he turned 17 years old, the Marine
recruiter reached out to him.
“The (Marine) recruiter
came over to me and said ‘hey man, it's your senior year,
what do you want to do,'” said Ontiveros. “Part of me wanted
to join the Army because of my grandfather's service there,
so I just blew him off.”
Ontiveros ran into the
recruiter again, but this time was given a unique
“One day the (Marine) recruiter came to
talk to the band that I was in,” said Ontiveros. “He said he
had a deal for me, that he would go get the Army recruiter
in there to talk to me, and then I could decide.”
Ontiveros spoke to the Army recruiter and listened to
everything he had to say, but something had grown inside of
him that wanted to see what the Marine Corps had to offer.
He ended up going back to the Marine recruiter to sit down
and talk, and unexpectedly became impressed.
talked to the Marine recruiter he was on point,” said
Ontiveros. “He asked me ‘what does the Marine Corps mean to
you?' I thought of them as being the badest, toughest people
in the world. He said that I could do it, all I had to do
was just try.”
The Marine recruiter invited Ontiveros
out to a poolee physical training session and was impressed
by how exhausted it had made him.
“After the workout
he told me I could do it and that I should,” said Ontiveros.
“From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a Marine.”
Ontiveros had seen and experienced what Marines were
like and was eager to become a part of the brotherhood.
“I've never seen a Marine who wasn't proud to be a
Marine,” said Ontiveros. “It was a cool thing, and they were
proud of it. It made me think, ‘I could have that, I could
be part of something like that.' The way they worked and
went about things was motivating. It showed that they knew
what they were doing, and I wanted that.”
making it to recruit training, Ontiveros had his chance to
prove he could be part of the brotherhood.
the drill instructors said, we knew he was going to get done
and there wasn't going to any pushback,” said Sgt. Brandon
M. Wheland, senior drill instructor, Plt. 2129. “He was a
great recruit and really engaged because this was all he
During recruit training, Ontiveros was able to
take his hardships and use them as a positive influence on
his fellow recruits.
“Other recruits were having a
hard time saying they wanted to go home,” said Wheland. “He
talked to them and motivated them to want to stay in
training and push forward; that completing the training was
the right thing to do.”
Now, with his Eagle, Globe
and Anchor in hand, Ontiveros will move on to Marine Combat
Training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He will
then attend his military occupational specialty training as
a bulk fuel specialist and looks forward to being part of
By U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego
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