Paratrooper, Ex-Boxer, Earns Citizenship
(June 7, 2009)
Army Pfc. Wenderson Jangada raises his right hand to become a U.S. citizen May 22, 2009, in Raleigh, N.C. Jangada, who speaks six languages, is from Brazil.
||FORT BRAGG, N.C., June 3, 2009
English teachers told us, often is confused with odd coincidence.
Just ask Army Pfc. Wenderson Jangada of the 82nd Airborne Division,
who will tell you it is ironic that the benefits of enlisting in the
U.S. Army can be more significant to immigrants than to citizens.
Jangada, who became a U.S. citizen in Raleigh, N.C., on May 22, has
a knack for linguistics. Not only does he speak six languages, but
he also has written an historic novel about Attila the Hun.
The well-spoken, 34-year-old Brazilian immigrant who serves with 1st
Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat
Team, also is a former professional boxer.
Every enlistee has a story, but the tracks laid by older enlistees
often are the most colorful. Jangada's is a love story, for a woman
and a country.
“I was in Paris sparring the French heavyweight champion and
teaching soldiers in the French Foreign Legion to box when I met my
wife,” he said.
A likely story.
“I met him at a bar,” said Susan Jangada. An American from the
small town of Linn Grove, Ind., she was a star volleyball player, the second
best pro “middle” in all of France. |
Jangada introduced himself and gave the attractive American his phone number.
She stuck it in her pocket, she said, intending to throw it away at first
“I didn't want anything to do with someone I met at a bar, and besides, I didn't
want to be tied down in France,” she said, noting the irony.
Jangada began his fighting career studying muay thai at Chute Boxe, the same
Brazilian gym that spawned mixed martial-arts champs Wanderlei and Anderson
People said he had “heavy hands.”
“Anyone you touch, you put to sleep,” a friend said of Jangada's quick
knockouts. He suggested the 6-foot-5-inch, 230-pound Brazilian try boxing.
Jangada's first boxing match ended in a knockout. “I broke the guy's nose and
knocked him down. There was blood everywhere. But I had no technique,” he said.
He became a student of the sport. He trained hard, went pro and became the
transcontinental heavyweight champion for 2001 and 2002. He aspired to make
Brazil's Olympic team, but the soccer-loving country had no money for boxers.
A friend suggested he move to Europe. “There are too many obstacles for
foreigners to fight in the U.S.,” Jangada said. “Europe is easier, and the
money's the same.”
Coincidentally, a certain pro volleyball player from Indiana was in Paris at the
same time. The phone number that she intended to throw away — the one a friend
encouraged her to dial, the number she texted two weeks later — would connect
her to her future husband and father of her children.
Now pregnant with the couple's second child, Susan Jangada recounted their
journey to her husband's enlistment in the Army and eventual U.S. citizenship as
one that only true love could endure.
A doctor advised Jangada to quit boxing before recurring health issues became
serious. Facing similar issues on the court, Susan Jangada suggested that
starting a family would be easier in the United States.
“She took me to a Starbucks and fed me cheesecake and hot chocolate. I could not
believe how good it was, and this came from America,” he said, laughing. “I
wanted to go to this country.”
Each went home -- Jangada to Brazil for a visa, Susan to Indiana, where she
worked three jobs to save money to start a family.
“It took seven months for him to get the visa interview,” Susan Jagada said.
Once his application was approved, he was in Indiana within 24 hours. The couple
was married two weeks later on Nov. 27, 2005.
Jangada submitted paperwork for a green card so that he could find work. Susan
took a job in Shreveport, La., coaching college volleyball, but the $15,000
salary wasn't enough. The couple moved in with Susan's parents, and Susan taught
high school as a substitute teacher. When she landed a coaching job at Houston
Baptist University, a Division One school with a more generous salary, the
couple moved again.
“But I was pregnant, and my husband wanted to take care of me and the baby,” she
said. A short while later, Jangada's green card was approved.
“I went to the Marine recruiter, but since I did not speak any English, they
would not take me. They suggested I try the Army,” Jangada said. He guessed his
way through the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and passed.
“He asked me what job he should choose in the Army, and I suggested cook,
plumber or electrician,” Susan Jangada said. “Anything but infantry.”
Jungata chose infantry. “I am a fighter,” he said. “I want to be in the lead.
It's my nature.”
At basic training, he learned his sixth language – English – from fellow
recruits and earned Soldier of the Cycle honors. Airborne school was easy, the
ex-athlete said, though he acknowledged landings for the big man always were
Assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 82nd's 1-504th, Jangada
was hand-picked by Army Sgt. Maj. Frank Hacker to serve on the team that
provides security for the battalion's senior leaders.
“I was impressed with his boxing background and the way he presented himself,”
said Hacker, who, with his wife, attended Jangada's citizenship ceremony. “The
man knows six languages, and now he is teaching himself Arabic — not just to
speak it, but to read and write it.”
Jangada said it just makes sense to him. “It is like in boxing,” he explained.
“When I am deployed, my opponent will speak Arabic. I want to know him.”
Set to deploy to Iraq in August with 1st Brigade, Jangada said he believes that,
in his absence, his pregnant wife and 16-month-old daughter will be well cared
for by the Army family. With readily available health care, his steady Army
income, and other resources available to his family, he will be able to stay
focused on his job, he said. When he returns from Iraq, he may use his GI Bill
to go to college, he added.
“I come into the Army, and they don't care that I am not a citizen. They accept
me anyway,” he said. Even better, the Army made it easy for him to become a
citizen, he noted.
“I am so grateful for all that I received that I will put my life on the line
for this country,” Jangada said.
“Sometimes I can't believe that he used to be a professional boxer,” his wife
said. “But then we run into some of his old acquaintances, and they holler,
‘Jangada, where have you been?' And they cannot believe he is in the Army.”
Life is full of the unexpected, she said.
By Army Spc. Michael J. MacLeod
82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team public affairs office
Special to American Forces Press Service
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