USS ESSEX, At Sea --
Many Marines join the Marine Corps for a chance to travel the world and experience adventure. But for one Marine assigned with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Corps is just a continuation of a life of excitement and danger.
Pfc. Celia A. Izaguirre was born in 1991 in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya, in East Africa, to missionary parents.
She is now a Maintenance Management Clerk with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, but her life before the Marine Corps reads like a novel.
Many times growing up, she and her missionary family experienced extreme violence and civil disorder, including being held at gunpoint and escaping firefights by racing through the jungles.
According to Amnesty International, politically motivated violence surged through the Rift Valley in the mid-90s, resulting in the death of thousands.
Her family of six once sought shelter and safety at the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and it was there that Izaguirre first saw a U.S. Marine. She said the impression was one that will stay with her for a lifetime.
After leaving East Africa, Izaguirre continued her adventure by moving to East Los Angeles, and then to the Bronx in New York City. She spent time homeless, destitute, and even lived a life of petty crime with a pink mohawk hairdo. She overcame obstacles and started her own business in San Antonio, Texas, before becoming a leasing agent in North Carolina.
“I was searching and I had forgotten where I came from,” she said. “But I finally was able to remember what my father instilled in me - to be a leader, to touch peoples’ lives in any way, to be fearless, to have God by my side and to go out there and go save the world."
So joining the Corps in October of 2010 was an easy decision. She remembered back to when the Marines at the Nairobi Embassy protected her family and was inspired to do the same. And she was already used to packing up her life – she moved at least once a year since birth.
“I am now a Pfc., so I don’t always know what my future is day to day,” said Izaguirre. “I am not part of the planning process, so don’t always know what to expect, or what is going to happen next.”
But the uncertainty that sometimes comes with being part of the military does not bother her. Between the dozens of places she has lived she has encountered unknown situations on a routine basis.
“A lot of Marines may come from a life of stability, but not me,” the 20-year-old said. “I have never had a say in what happens to me. I’ve moved probably over 100 times, and I am used to that kind of lifestyle.”
With only one year in the Corps, and her junior rank, she says that some may look at her as having nothing to offer.
“But I have seen more as a child than many Marines will ever see in a career,” she said. “Leaders must understand that even their most junior subordinates have something to offer the team.”
She is excited to be with the 31st MEU and is looking forward to a promotion and her first Marine Corps Ball when the MEU returns from deployment.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I think that finally I’ve found my equilibrium in life, where I’m supposed to be, travelling the world. Now I am striving for a leadership position so that I can make more of a difference.”
Izaguirre plans to apply for the Marine Security Guard program as soon as she is eligible and continue the life of travel and adventure while with the Marine Corps.
“I wouldn’t trade my life for a million bucks,” said Izaguirre. “I am living the true American dream. The first Americans moved into an uncertain situation. They were entrepreneurs and bright thinkers. They crossed the ocean despite not knowing what the future would hold, and they made a life for themselves. I am doing the same.”
Izaguirre is currently aboard the USS Essex (LHD 2) on deployment with the 31st MEU, the only continually forward-deployed MEU and the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.