CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Serving in the military does not guarantee a path to U.S. citizenship for immigrants, but it does make the process simpler.
For one Marine from Honduras, his reasons for joining extended beyond citizenship.
Lance Cpl. Jose Avila, a refrigeration mechanic with Regimental Combat Team 7, earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in Honduras and then moved to New York with plans to join the Marine Corps and then earn his master’s degree.
Avila’s brother, who already lived in New York, had told Avila about friends who joined the Marine Corps and received great benefits. He never imagined he would earn his citizenship.
“I never really thought about becoming a citizen,” said Avila, who calls Staten Island, N.Y., home. “I didn’t even know it was a possibility.
In fact, the thought of citizenship came up only when Avila was told he needed a security clearance to deploy with RCT-7. Without the clearance he could not deploy, and without citizenship he could not get a clearance.
So began a journey in early 2012 that would lead Avila to citizenship and then to serving his nation in Afghanistan.
After successfully completing an immigration interview and a written exam, Avila was told he would be granted citizenship and would be sworn in as a citizen in as little as a few months after all the paperwork was finished.
“It requires paperwork; a lot of paperwork,” Avila said with a tinge of weariness in his voice.
To his surprise, Avila received a phone call the next day. It was someone calling to say he had to be in Phoenix, Ariz., the following day for a state-wide nationalization ceremony for servicemembers.
“I was stationed in Yuma (Arizona) at the time and had to drive to Phoenix for the ceremony,” Avila said. “There were all sorts of important people and politicians there at the state (capitol) building.”
Avila said he is very proud to be a citizen but there is so much more he wants to accomplish.
“I’m a citizen, but now I am out here in Afghanistan actually getting to be a part of something bigger,” Avila said.
Avila said he is proud to be in a combat zone and as the only refrigeration mechanic with RCT-7 his job is important.
Avila repairs and maintains air conditioners and refrigerators across throughout Helmand Province here, which helps keep Marines comfortable and their food properly stored.
“It’s usually just (Avila) and another Marine travelling out to a base and they have to work with many higher-ranking Marines,” said Cpl. Corey Caracciolo, the engineer maintenance chief with RCT-7. “He has to carry himself with professionalism.”
A smile came across Avila’s face as he listed the many forward operating bases he has visited to perform refrigeration repairs.
A big smile on Avila’s face is not unusual according to Caracciolo, a 23-year-old native of Oxford, Mass. He said Avila is always bringing a sense of charm and laughter to the engineer maintenance section.
Avila also shares his wisdom. At age 30, he has more life experience than most of his fellow Marines.
“If you have a serious question about life or you just need advice, go to (Avila),” Caracciolo said. “He’s like the wise old man of the group.”
Avila plans to earn a master’s degree in business and said he has not decided whether he will pursue a full career in the Marine Corps.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series wherein every week we recognize an individual Marine or sailor with Regimental Combat Team 7. The Marines and sailors of RCT-7 are dedicated, disciplined and driven to accomplish the mission, and the Marine in this article has earned special recognition for standing out among these professionals. Be sure to check every week to see who will be honored as the latest Marine of the Week.