Family inspires Marine through training
By Lance Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke
| | August 30, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
He'd wake up early, still groggy and hungry. Immediately he would look for food, something to fill his empty stomach. But unlike most Americans, he wouldn't head to a refrigerator, cupboard or pantry. His family didn't have any food, and the burden of providing his family with something to eat every day fell on his shoulders.
"We'd eat once a day or sometimes not at all," said Pvt. Jimmy K. Waweru, Platoon 3096, Company I. "I would always make sure my family was fed before I ate anything."
Waweru left the impoverished country of Kenya for the United States in November 2000. Less than two years later the 18-year-old is one of the Corps' newest Marines.
He came to the United States with his family in search of a new home and relief from the hardship that many Africans endure in everyday life.
Waweru's journey to become a U.S. Marine began when his sister, already living in Oklahoma, wrote a letter to the embassy petitioning the government for authorization for her family to come to the United States. When her request was granted, the villagers from Waweru's village in Kenya helped his family save enough money to get transportation to the United States.
Waweru and his family were disappointed that his father could not accompany them to the land of opportunity. The family could not afford for Waweru's father to come with them initially, and they are currently trying to get him to the United States, according to Waweru.
"Family is very important," said the thin, brown-eyed, new Marine. "My family are the ones who encourage me and motivate me. They're the ones who keep me going and make me strive for my goals."
All that encouragement and motivation became more important when Waweru decided he wanted to provide for his family by becoming the first U.S. Marine in his family. When he arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Waweru didn't even know how to tie his boots.
"We wore very little clothes in Africa. I used to walk barefoot everywhere," said the 5-foot-9-inch Marine. "When they issued me boots, I was like 'what do I do with these.'"
Even though Waweru initially had a difficult time with simple tasks like tying his boots, he was never a problem recruit.
"He's an outstanding recruit; he was from the beginning," said Staff Sgt. Todd M. Boydstun, senior drill instructor, Platoon 3096, I Co. "He's real small, but very physically tough."
Waweru's desire to excel and commitment to his goal of providing for his family have helped shape him into an outstanding recruit.
"We never hear anything negative out of him," said Boydstun. "His work ethic is outstanding. He's really disciplined and sharp minded. I'd take a whole platoon full of Wawerus."
Waweru's easiest transition into recruit training was eating three meals a day, he said.
"Chow hall food is paradise. I hear people complain about the food and I just look at them and say 'you don't know what you're talking about,'" said Waweru.
Some of the Marines from Waweru's platoon appreciated the chow hall food a lot more after hearing about his struggles back in Kenya.
"The hunger that he experienced back in Africa doesn't compare to what we go through in recruit training," said Pfc. William D. Weill, Waweru's squad leader. "His story has made me appreciate the chow hall food a lot more."
Recruit training has prepared Waweru for life in the Marine Corps and made him part of a bigger family, but he emphasizes his strong ties and devotion to his family.
"Wherever I go, wherever I stay, the only real home is with my family," said Waweru.
Waweru said he has a lot of respect for his drill instructors because they have been his roll models for the last 13 weeks, and they have transformed him into a Marine, but he insisted his biggest role model is his brother.
"He's taught me everything I know," said Waweru. "He's taught me how important it is to be dedicated to your family."
Waweru said he enjoys traveling, socializing and meeting new people. He has a girlfriend in Oklahoma, and he said he is anxious to see her again.
Waweru's family could not afford to come to his graduation ceremony Aug. 30, but he said he knows they are proud of him and they will continue to be with him in spirit.
"My dad told me 'if you believe in what you do and strive for your goals, you'll always make it,'" said Waweru.
Waweru's strife pays off. He earned the title Marine. To him, there is no other title that holds more prestige or honor, he said.
"What other title could top U.S. Marine? There isn't one," said Waweru.