Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen William E. Souza III, commanding general, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Korea, left, and Brig. Gen. James A. Ryans II, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Western Recruiting Region, right, pose for a picture with Pfc. Junyoung Kim, left center and his family after a graduation ceremony for Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, June 28, 2024. Kim is a native of South Korea and was one of seven Marines with Echo Company who became U.S. citizens. Kim was recruited from Granada Hills, California. Graduation took place at the completion of the 13-week transformation, which included training for drill, marksmanship, basic combat skills, and Marine Corps customs and traditions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexandra M. Earl)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Alexandra Earl

America’s Newest Citizens Earn the Title Marine

28 Jun 2024 | Staff Sgt. Melissa L. Karnath and Mr. Steven Posy Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego

For some of the new Marines of Echo Company, the road to joining the Marine Corps was a long one. Pfc. Jonas Hernandez, 34-year-old native of Mexico recruited from Recruiting Sub Station Thousand Oaks, Calif., spent 17 years dreaming of one day becoming a United States Marine.  

“My mother brought me to the United States, from Mexico when I was only one and a half years old. As a teenager I joined the Los Angeles Police Department Explorer Program, and some of our members went on to become U.S. Marines. When they would return to come speak to us, I was always impressed with their knowledge and discipline. I knew then I wanted to become a Marine one day,” said Hernandez.  

Hernandez's dream to become a Marine took a detour. When he turned 18 and learned he did not have legal status in the United States, he put his dream on hold, as he went on to work many physically laborious jobs over the years. Hernandez decided to go to college in 2020 and worked toward an associate degree in Spanish Interpretation and Translation, and transitioned his studies into a Bachelor’s Degree program. Despite waiting 17 long years he never let go of his dream of becoming a Marine, and in April of 2024 he enlisted into the Marine Corps.  

“I get to see two of my dreams come true at the same time becoming a U.S. citizen and becoming a United States Marine. It’s very uplifting, waiting as long as I have. Staying focused on your dreams, you learn that you can make them happen,” said Hernandez.  

For 23-year-old Pvt. Cristian Martinezescobar, native of El Salvador, and recruited from Recruiting Sub Station Fontana, Calif., his path to the Marine Corps was much shorter.  

“I came to the United States when I was 21. I always wanted to be part of the military. I joined the Military Academy in El Salvador, but it was very expensive and the country had become too dangerous with gang violence, so my mom took me to the United States,” said Martinezescobar. “I heard that the U.S. Marine Corps was the best, so that’s what I wanted to become.” 

After working with his local recruiter for more than a year, Martinezescobar received a call, letting him know that he was eligible to enlist. Two weeks later, he arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego for training. 

“The first two weeks were difficult. I had to adapt to the military and a new country, and not speaking English well; I had to rely on the other recruits to know what was going on. It feels great now, and I am very excited. I am so proud to be able to accomplish this,” said Martinezescobar.” 

In addition, five more new Marines of Echo Company joined Hernandez and Martinezescobar by earning the title Marine along with becoming a U.S. citizen. Pfc. Gheorghe Ermurachi, originally from Moldova and recruited from Recruiting Sub Station Emerald City; Pfc. Junyoung Kim, originally from South Korea and recruited from Recruiting Sub Station Granada Hills; Pfc. Priscila Sanchezsantilian, originally from Mexico and recruited from Recruiting Sub Station Escondido; Pfc. Samuel Valdezguiriz, originally from Mexico and recruited from Recruiting Sub Station Boise; Pfc. Jiang Xinnian, originally from China and recruited from Recruiting Sub Station Pasadena.  

“These young Marines have already shown their commitment to this country by joining the military and supporting this great nation, making them a United States citizen is a great reward for their sacrifice. It also opens their opportunity to more jobs in the military,” said Sahba Rahmani, recruit naturalization manager at MCRD San Diego.  

Following graduation, June 28, 2024, these seven new Marines will enjoy 10 days of leave with their loved ones and then report to School of Infantry – West at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for additional initial training.  
For more information about becoming a Marine visit your local recruiting station or  

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