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Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

Marine gives back by joining Corps

By Lance Cpl. Tyler Viglione | Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego | September 20, 2013

San Diego --

Marines join the Corps for all sorts of reasons, for one Marine, the Corps was his way of giving back to America.

Pfc. Joseph E. Kangethe, Platoon 1010, Company A, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, was born in a different environment than his peers; Nairobi, Kenya.

“I moved to the United States last year on February 20. I compare my life back in Africa to my life here and it was so much different,” said Kangethe, 18. “In February 2012, I was able to move to America. My father got his green card and put my family’s name on his papers so we got green cards as well.”

According to Kangethe, the Kenyan school system was almost nothing like in the U.S. He had to pay to go to school and bring his own food every day. Unlike most students here, Kangethe went to school from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“I used to go to school with no food, we didn’t have any food at home that I could bring, so I usually wouldn’t eat all day,” said Kangethe. “The teachers are also very different back in Africa; you get hit if you mess up in school, unlike here where they talk to you.”

Kangethe described life in Kenya as hard, not only at school but at home as well. His mother was a housewife where she maintained the family farm.

“I would wake up every morning and couldn’t eat breakfast. We didn’t have anything to eat,” said Kangethe. “So every morning I would go out and work in the field. I would try and find food but it was hard to find food and bring it back to my home.”

His mother worked on the family farm where they grew crops and raised cattle for their food and when they didn’t have the resources to gather enough food, they would hunt. Poverty struck Kangethe’s family which is why they struggled to keep food in their house.

Kangethe grew up in a close knit community. He knew everyone by name and where they lived. When he moved to the U.S. he didn’t even know his neighbor in the apartment complex he resided in.

When Kangethe got settled into the U.S., he figured out what to do now as he seized all of the opportunities America had to offer, and took it further.

“America saved my life,” said Kangethe. “I felt like I owed something to America so I joined the Marine Corps.”

He didn’t want to go to college. He said he knew deep down it wasn’t the right path for him.

“I did this for myself and for all the other people that got the opportunity to come from Africa,” said Kangethe. “Many people come up here (to America) and forget how their lives were where they came from, I didn’t.”

Through the duration of recruit training, Kangethe was described as inspirational by his peers and even his drill instructors.

“He had a strong presence with the platoon, which is why we made him a squad leader,” said Staff Sgt. Giovani Dominguez, senior drill instructor. “The other recruits respected him because he showed them to take nothing for granted.”

Kangethe was always on top of what he needed to do while in recruit training. He scored high on his physical fitness test and qualified “expert” with the M16-A4 service rifle.

“Coming from his background, being able to do everything he has accomplished while in recruit training is unbelievable,” said Dominguez, a native of Bronx, N.Y. “He was truly an outstanding recruit, one of the best I’ve had during my time as a drill instructor.”

Dominguez believes that Kangethe will be very successful in his Marine Corps career because it’s never about himself, he always puts others first.

“I was fortunate to have him in my platoon. I’ve learned a lot from him that I will be able to use later on in my career,” said Dominguez.

Kangethe will move on from recruit training to Marine Combat Training. Then he will continue on to his military occupational school as an Automotive Organizational Mechanic.

“My mother always told me don’t complain when you have two pairs of shoes because there is always that person who only has one pair of shoes. That is how I guide my life and I’m going to take any opportunity I get and make the best out of it,” said Kangethe. “I tell people all the time to appreciate what they have because there are people that would wish to have what they have and be happy with it.”

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