Marine overcomes language barrier to shape new Marines
By Lance Cpl. Jess N. Levens
| | May 23, 2003
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Many people consider the United States to be the land of opportunity; especially people who don't live here. They sit in their homes, some poor, some well off. Some are unhappy with their governments, others with their quality of life. Some people stay and dream of American freedom, but others do something about it.
One of these "doers" is Sgt. Donald Mayorga, drill instructor, Platoon 1074, Company C.
Mayorga was born in Managua, Nicaragua, 25 years ago. He grew up in a relatively poor area. Sharing a home with his mother and three sisters, Mayorga strived to prosper, despite not knowing his father.
Fed up with their living situation, his mother made her voyage to the U.S. in 1988 to give her family a better life, according to Mayorga.
Once Mayorga's mother had settled in and had a steady job, he followed her footsteps and moved in with her in 1994. He arrived to Alexandria, Va., and immediately began high school.
"High school was hard at first because I couldn't speak any English," said Mayorga.
After one year of school, Mayorga joined the track and field team and ran cross-country. He ran long distance in Nicaragua, so it came easy to him.
"While I ran cross-country, my coach and teammates helped me learn English," said Mayorga. "They really helped me get through school."
Mayorga continued to run track and near graduation, he received a letter from the University of Tennessee.
"Tennessee said I was a great runner, but thought I didn't have enough experience," said Mayorga. "I knew cross-country was the shot I had at college in the U.S."
Mayorga planned to move back to Nicaragua and attend a college there to become a civil engineer. To pass time and save money for school, Mayorga worked part time at a catholic church. While working there, he did some real soul searching.
"I decided I wasn't ready to leave America," said Mayorga. "There was so much I wanted to see and explore."
So, at 19, Mayorga called his local Marine recruiter and asked him to come over with some paper work.
"At first, I didn't care what service I joined," said Mayorga. "Then I saw the Marines. Their uniforms looked so nice and they seemed very disciplined."
Within 10 minutes of the phone call, a recruiter was at Mayorga's home. Soon, Mayorga enlisted and was off to MCRD Parris Island for three months of recruit training.
Mayorga said recruit training wasn't very difficult for him because had been raised saying, "yes" and "no, sir." He knew to move quickly and do what he was told. He did have one slight problem, however.
"My English still wasn't very good," said Mayorga. "I had trouble understanding the drill instructors."
After basic training, he was on a plane to Meridian, Miss., for aviation supply school. He graduated second in his class and was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, Calif.
He went on six-month deployment to the western Pacific from Miramar and went to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.
"I had a lot of fun in Australia," said Mayorga. "I have family there that I had not seen in over 10 years and they showed me around."
While at Miramar, Mayorga decided to become a drill instructor. He said he wanted to teach civilians to be Marines.
After Drill Instructor School, Mayorga was assigned to Company C. In his first cycle, he said he felt out of place.
"I was lost my first cycle," said Mayorga. "I still didn't know much English, and I wasn't used to the long hours and hectic schedule."
Since his first cycle, Mayorga said he has improved quite a bit and the schedule doesn't seem to faze him.
"Now I can close my eyes and still know what the recruits behind me are doing," said Mayorga. "I have my schedule planned three days ahead and I don't get as fatigued."
"Sgt. Mayorga is an awesome drill instructor," said PFC Louis M. Zani, Platoon 1074, Co. C. "To come from a foreign country and not speak the language, then teach Americans is amazing."
Mayorga has trained three cycles and plans to start a family with his wife of three years, Rosalva, after his tour on the drill field.
"It is outstanding how he has learned to teach," said Sgt. David J. Sutton, drill instructor, Platoon 1074, Co. C. "He has overcome a lot of adversity."
His career as a Marine has touched hundreds of young Marines. It all began as a child in a foreign country, dreaming of America.