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Pursuing Dream Through Marine Corps
by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Emily Kirk
August 21, 2020

Who said there is only one correct path to achieving your goals and dreams?

There are many ways to accomplish your goals and when life does not go as planned, do not give up, stay focused, and find a different route.

That is how Private Kristofer Maldonado, a 2016 graduate of Nipomo High School, became a Marine. Maldonado started working with the Marines of Recruiting Sub-Station (RSS) San Luis Obispo, which is a part of Recruiting Station Los Angeles, in March 2020.

U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Kristofer Maldonado, a Marine recruited from Recruiting Sub-Station San Luis Obispo, Recruiting Station Los Angeles, achieves his dreams by becoming a United States Marine. Maldonado is a native from Arroyo Grande, California and graduated from Nipomo High School. The Marine Corps allowed Maldonado to achieve his dream of becoming a military policemen. (U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Emily Kirk - August 12, 2020)
U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Kristofer Maldonado, a Marine recruited from Recruiting Sub-Station San Luis Obispo, Recruiting Station Los Angeles, achieves his dreams by becoming a United States Marine. Maldonado is a native from Arroyo Grande, California and graduated from Nipomo High School. The Marine Corps allowed Maldonado to achieve his dream of becoming a military policemen. (U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Emily Kirk - August 12, 2020)

Previously in 2015, he pursued a military career with another branch of service, but decided he was not ready to enlist at that time. Over the next five years, Maldonado pursued his love for music, higher education, and his dreams of becoming a police officer.

"I’ve played piano, guitar, and drums off and on since I was 8, but I play guitar in my band. When I was home, my band would play almost every weekend or as much as we could, given busy schedules. I would say I was pretty involved. The band name is GrandAve. I plan on playing with GrandAve as long as I can or as long as the Corps will allow me to," said Maldonado.

He played throughout college at a local venue and they become increasingly more popular. They also started opening for some known artists. College started becoming less of a priority because his focus was on work more than going to class.

At times, Maldonado described work as an essential part to basically live and survive. They would play a lot on the weekends, but eventually the lead singer had to have throat surgery, which lead the band to be out of gigs for a while.

That's when everything came to a standstill. The band wasn't playing, he didn't finish school, and Maldonado was just working to live. He considered the police academy, but it was costly and he was unable to get sponsored by a police department to help pay for the training.

“I knew what the long-term goal was, and that was becoming a police officer, but I did not know the steps to take to get there,” said Maldonado. “I started college right out of high school to get my criminal justice degree and to join a police department. The years went by and ultimately, everything was put on hold; music, school, police academy.”

Maldonado found himself in the same position he had been five years ago, heading to the Military Career Center. This time, he went to talk to the Marines of RSS San Luis Obispo.

Maldonado met with Marine Corps recruiters, Staff Sgt. Joseph Torres and Gunnery Sgt. Gabriela Garcia. “When I was done talking, they both chimed in and gave me their opinions on the Marine Corps and the different opportunities. I felt part of the ‘brother and sisterhood’ the Marine Corps has to offer right off the bat.” Soon thereafter, Maldonado had met all the Marines from the RSS.

“If these are the types of people the Marine Corps is producing, these are the types of people I want to be around,” said Maldonado.

The Delayed Entry Program (DEP) provides young men and women the opportunity to enlist in the Marines even though they might not go to recruit training for a year. The DEP has weekly meetings with their recruiters to ensure they are continuously making strides to prepare each young man and woman for recruit training.

Station Commander Staff Sgt. Velazquez invited Maldonado to attend one of their DEP meetings. “Staff Sergeant told me, ‘You’re more than welcome to come, and if you decide you want to join, we’ll get you in and even try to help you get the Military Occupational Specialty you want,’” said Maldonado. “They jumped over the moon to get me what I wanted, and that is military police. Staff Sgt. Velasquez fought tooth and nail to secure that for me and he didn’t have to. I’ve really seen them go above and beyond to be a good recruiter.”

Staff Sgt. Velazquez recognized the determination within Maldonado during the first few minutes of meeting. Afterwards the two worked together to set goals needed to be achieved over the next weeks.

“I gave him a goal to lose weight and increase his pull-ups, and he accomplished that in no time. Every milestone I set for him after that, he not only achieved, but he exceeded it,” said Velazquez.

Maldonado is not sure if he will serve as an active duty Marine for five, 10, or 20 years.

However, he does know, “Without a doubt, any police department would want to take me because of the resume the Marine Corps has given me,” said Maldonado.

Maldonado earned the title of Marine on on July 31, 2020. Filled with a sense of pride and belonging, he knows becoming a Marine will benefit his life in more ways than he could imagine.

Learn more about becoming a Marine

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