Soldier�Serves Country, Pays Debt To U.S.
(August 28, 2010)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – With the U.S. Army deployed to Iraq and
Afghanistan for several years now, it's hard for some soldiers to focus on the
reasons to stay in the army. Soldiers are sacrificing time with their families
to fight wars that not all Americans agree with. |
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gabriel Villalobos, a military intelligence analyst with Intelligence and Sustainment Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, holds his then 4-year-old daughter, Briana, while they check out an NBA trophy at Fort Bliss, Texas, in the summer of 2008. Villalobos is a U.S. citizen who grew up in a Mexican border town. He joined the U.S. Army to give back to the country that has given him so much.
However, nothing can make U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gabriel Villalobos, Company B,
Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, question his
service to his country. All that matters to him is he has been given the chance
to give back to a country that has given him and his family so much.
“I knew that when I grew up, I was going to be an American soldier,” Villalobos
said. “I knew that if a country was willing to aid my pregnant mother when she
illegally entered the United States to have me, then I was obligated to serve.”
Bertha Villalobos was pregnant with Gabriel when she illegally crossed the
border between Mexico and the U.S. in August of 1980. Two weeks later, she gave
birth to him in Deming, N.M., giving him American citizenship and an opportunity
at life she wouldn't otherwise have been able to provide.
After Villalobos was born, his mother took
him back to Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico, where he lived until he joined the
U.S. Army in August of 1999.
“Growing up in Mexico was kind of tough,” Villalobos said. “I used to go to the
border crossing everyday to enter the U.S. I would take a bus from there to
school in New Mexico. I did this from kindergarten until I graduated high
The New Mexico education system took care of Villalobos for free because he was
an American citizen living in Mexico. The state also gave him health care and
“Palomas was and has always been infested with criminal activity, things ranging
from drugs to human trafficking. It was pretty much like living in an Afghan
village with unpaved roads, a lack of infrastructure, corruption in government,
an unstable economy and drug lords who ran the town,” Villalobos said. “To top
it off, I never really had friends because I went to school in the U.S., so I
didn't know a lot of the local kids.”
His hometown is now one of the most dangerous places in the world, said
Villalobos. It's roughly 45 kilometers west of Juarez, Chihuahua, which is one
of the most deadly cities in the world today.
“Recently, my father was kidnapped in Palomas,” Villalobos said. “We couldn't
count on the government to assist since it is still corrupt, so my family had to
come together and pay a ransom. My parents moved to their property in the U.S.
and have left their property in Mexico to friends and family.”
Now 29 with a pregnant wife and a 6-year-old daughter, Villalobos has served 11
years in the Army with three combat deployments. He is currently deployed to
Afghanistan as a military intelligence analyst with, Intelligence and
Sustainment Co., Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne
Villalobos said he has never regretted joining the Army. For him, the job is
demanding and leaving his family is hard, but it's worth it as long as he's
serving his country.
“I've always felt that I've had to prove myself as an American citizen ... that
my way of paying back this country has been to serve it as long as I'm allowed,”
Villalobos said. “I truly believe God intended for me to become a United States
Article and photo by Army Spc. Scott Davis
Combined Joint Task Force 101
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