Sustaining an injury while training is one of the last things recruits want to deal with during their experience. They try their best to prevent any injuries, but sometimes accidents happen. After waiting for almost a year to become a Marine, Private First Class Mauricio E. Cadena, Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, finally graduates recruit training.
Cadena wanted to join the Marine Corps ever since he was a little boy.
“I remember seeing the commercials on TV all the time, and I was so fascinated by them,” said Cadena. “A family friend from church had a son who joined the Marine Corps, and it was so motivating when I saw him after he graduated and came back. That was the moment I knew that I wanted to join the Marine Corps.”
May 31, 2016 - Private First Class Mauricio E. Cadena, Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, stands next to Company F's sign in front of his squad bay at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego a few days before he and his fellow Fox Company recruits graduation, June 3, 2016. Cadena spent an extra eight months at the depot before graduating to repair a knee injury. Annually, more than 17,000 males recruited from the Western Recruiting Region are trained at MCRD San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica Annastas)
Growing up in Commerce, Texas, wasn't difficult for Cadena, but it wasn't easy either. He and his two younger brothers were raised by a single mother who had to work constantly to support her family.
“[My mother and I] butted heads a lot, but she was a strong-willed woman,” said Cadena. “She was someone I could look up to because of her good work ethic. She had to take on the role of both the mother and the father for me and my brothers, and it wasn't easy for her.”
Before heading to recruit training, Cadena had to complete high school and earn a diploma.
“School wasn't too bad,” said Cadena. “I was really lazy, but I still managed to earn mostly B's. I just never made it a priority.”
Before starting his senior year, Cadena joined the delayed entry program and started his journey to become a Marine. His first steps on the depot were July 13, 2015, and he was attached to Fox Company. However, his time with Fox Company was cut short after tearing his ACL.
“It was during one of our hikes when it happened,” said Cadena. “We were going downhill, and one of the other recruits grabbed my pack from behind for support and ended up falling on me in the process. My knee got dislocated.”
Cadena was sent to medical and was diagnosed with a tear in his left ACL. He was dropped from his platoon in Fox Company and assigned to a Medical Rehabilitation Platoon. This platoon is for recruits who are injured or become ill during recruit training and cannot continue in training with their companies. It is there they focus on recovery.
“They offered to send me home for surgery, but I knew that if I went home I'd get caught up in something,” said Cadena. “I kept getting offers to go back home, but I chose to stay. I thought, ‘I was already here, so I might as well stick it out.'”
Overall, the eight months in the MRP was difficult for Cadena.
“It felt like I was stuck in limbo forever, just waiting,” said Cadena. “As soon as I picked up, though, I missed everyone. I missed the friendships and brotherhood I had with the other recruits in MRP. It was a good experience for me, and I wouldn't take it back for anything.”
When Cadena's knee finally healed up, he was able to pick back up with Fox Company.
“My surgeon worked with me on that,” said Cadena. “He knew I wanted to finish with Fox Company, so he helped out in making that happen.”
The transition back into the course of recruit training was nothing like what it was in the MRP.
“It sucked not knowing what was going on anymore,” said Cadena. “I was so lost in the sauce most of the time, which is normal as a recruit, I guess.”
Shortly after continuing where he left off, Cadena was selected to be the new guide of his platoon.
“I was the guide in MRP, so it wasn't completely new,” said Cadena. “The whole leadership aspect was what kind of threw me off a little. I was in charge, but I was limited in what I could do, in a sense. I would be given a task and was expected to adapt and overcome, all in a fast manner. I couldn't slip up because I knew they would see that and use it against me. I had to earn that level of respect as the guide.”
Finally earning his Eagle, Globe and Anchor was a pivotal moment for Cadena.
“It felt so surreal,” said Cadena. “It was like something massive was just taken off of my shoulders. I waited so long for that moment. I remember looking out in the distance and taking everything in on top of that hill and thinking, ‘I made it.' It felt too good to be true.”
The moment that tied his experience together was when Staff Sgt. Steven I. Valdez called Cadena into his office.
“Staff Sgt. Valdez was one of my drill instructors when I was in MRP,” said Cadena. “He got attached to Fox Company, just like me, but he was with another platoon. He called me into his office after and he took the EGA off of his cover and he gave it to me. I looked up to that man, and I'll never forget that moment.”
Following recruit training, Cadena will report to the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and then to his military occupational specialty school to become an aviation electronics technician.
“To keep myself motivated, I remember looking back at an experience I had with [Staff Sgt. Elrico D. Netter],” said Cadena. “He was my receiving drill instructor and every morning he would ask me three knowledge questions, and they wouldn't be easy ones. They were the most random knowledge questions, but he would expect me to know the answer. I remember him telling me, ‘Don't waste your time here. You have to do something. Find an area that needs improvement and work on it.' Because of that, I was able to continue growing and I learned a lot about myself.”
By U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Angelica Annastas
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