KAJAKI, Afghanistan --
He stands side-by-side his fellow Marines, pours his blood and sweat into his job and sacrifices time away from his family. He lives driven by a will to earn his way in life and appreciate what’s been given to him.
Lance Cpl. Christopher Yudin, a machinegunner with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, serves in the Corps as a chance to give back to the country where, after a childhood of moving from place to place, he finally found a place to call his own.
Yudin, who has called Seattle home since 1999, lived under a diplomat visa with his parents while attending high school and college. He is not an U.S. citizen but said as a child he always wanted to join the Marines. In his mind there is nothing more American then serving in the Marine Corps.
Yudin met his wife, Blake, when he was 25 and bartending at a restaurant. They’ve been married for three years. Once married, it takes an individual three years to complete the process for citizenship. Any active duty military member can become a U.S. citizen under certain requirements. They must complete an English literacy and civics test, take the Oath of Allegiance show good moral character, and be serving honorably.
Yudin said he saw enlisting in the Corps as an opportunity to complete a childhood dream of becoming a Marine while giving back to the U.S.
“I'm a firm believer if you want be part of something then you have to do your part,” Yudin added.
Yudin grew up in several different countries; he was born in Finland, where his mother was a diplomat for Mexico. His family would move every five years to a new country with a different culture and different customs.
“She eventually got assigned to Seattle,” Yudin said. “I went to high school and college there. I really like the place and I have all my friends – I think I found home for once.”
The move to Seattle was Yudin’s first time in the U.S. and he realized how life is different from everywhere else he had been.
“(In the U.S.) you have a lot of luxuries, a lot of liberties, a lot of freedoms,” Yudin said. “I can’t really compare it to anywhere else,”
Experiencing life in other countries gave Yudin a greater appreciation for the U.S. He keeps this in mind while deployed to Afghanistan.
“You can’t take things for granted,” Yudin explained. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m out here. When I get back I can say I earned my citizenship.”
Yudin will apply for citizenship when he returns to America. He didn’t have to enlist to become a citizen, but in his own eyes he saw that serving in the Marines was a way to validate his citizenship.
“Being a Marine – we’re considered the best, held to a higher standard and surrounded by a lot of good guys,” Yudin said.
Yudin didn’t relax once he became a Marine. He worked hard to become one of the better machinegunners in his company.
“His work ethic impressed me,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle Prather, Yudin’s team leader with the battalion.
Prather added that Yudin worked hard to not only be a great machinegunner but also be a great Marine.
“He asked questions about land (navigation), the radios and weapons systems we don’t use on a regular basis,” Prather said. “He was always asking questions wanting to become a better Marine.”
Hiking in more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and being involved in firefights gives Yudin a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. He says his citizenship means more because he has served his country “Being a machinegunner, we carry a lot of weight and we’re expected to keep up with everyone,” Yudin said. “We’re responsible for suppressing the enemy and protecting our brothers. We have a huge responsibility so I take a lot of pride in what I do.”
Yudin’s citizenship rarely comes up in conversation with the other Marines in his platoon. Sometimes the Marines are surprised to find he’s not a U.S. citizen but he says it has never been an issue.
“I didn’t really care (when he told me),” Prather said. “We’re all in the same fight together so it really doesn’t matter. He wants it bad enough and he’s sacrificing for his country. I think it’s great.”
Yudin plans on talking to the legal office when he returns to seek advice on officially becoming a U.S. citizen.
After serving time in the Marines and deploying to Afghanistan, Yudin had this to say.
“I’m doing my part – earning my citizenship. I’m proud to be out here.”
Editor’s Note: The 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.