GASTONIA, North Carolina – U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Fidel Chidandali, a recruiter at the Gastonia recruiting substation, Charlotte recruiting station, sits at his desk with his younger brother, Ushindi Phanuel, on June 21, 2021. Phanuel waits patiently for his older brother to complete the final paperwork for his enlistment in the Marine Corps. After the latest signings, Chidandali is setting his little brother on a path he paved many years before. Chidandali was the first person in his family to become a Marine, and his younger brother is set to be the second. But many years ago, the opportunity to become Marines was something they never dreamed of. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a time of civil unrest, their family was forced to flee Congo and start a new life in Kenya as refugees.
“When we arrived in Kenya, there were nine of us living in a one-room house with a tin roof,” Chidandali explained. “Every morning we had to fold our mattresses, tie them with rope, put them aside in the room and go to school. We would come home at the end of the day, have our family meals, remove our mattresses and sleep. This is how we lived for many years before our family started having more opportunities.
As refugees, their parents were not allowed to work or own a business while in Kenya, so while there they lived on aid from the United Nations and donations from local churches.
“Things were difficult; everything was a fight, whether it was for meals, clothes or even education. We had to maintain our grades just to be able to stay in class,” says Chidandali. “When we were told we were going to the States, it was one of those magical moments that we couldn’t believe were real.”
“During the vetting process to go to the United States, it was actually the first time I encountered a Marine.” Chidandali goes on to say, “I was around 13 or 14, and I remember we were at the US Embassy in Kenya finishing up some paperwork. There were these guys handing out boxes of food and supplies in these fancy uniforms. After receiving a box of food, I looked up at the man and asked if he was some sort of cop or in the US military. He chuckled for a second and shook his head. With a smile on his face, he looked at me and said, ‘No, I’m not in the military. I am a US Marine. And I don’t know what it was, but ever since then I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be a sailor. »
After a six-year process, their family was finally able to move to the United States and settle in Tucson, Arizona. It wasn’t until Chidandali’s second year at Pima Community College that he would have his second encounter with another Marine.
“The funny thing is, now that I think about it, I know there were Marine Corps recruiters at my high school, but I didn’t recognize them because they were wearing a different uniform than navy at the embassy,” Chidandali said. . “But I remember being on my college campus, sitting in the library and seeing a Marine walk by in his Blue Deltas robe. I stopped whatever I was doing and ran after him. After I caught up with him, everything was pretty easy. My family was against it at first, coming from a war torn country, they weren’t very happy about me joining the army. Luckily, I told them a few days before going on recruitment training in October 2012.”
Chidandali spent 13 weeks at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in Oceanside, California. During the final week of training, the recruits must complete their final challenge: a 54-hour exercise called “The Crucible” which tests the physical, mental and moral training they underwent at the depot. In the final hours of the Crucible, the rookies face a unique challenge at MCRD San Diego. At the end of a 9.7 mile hike stands a 700 foot high mountain called “The Reaper”.
“It was a great moment in my life. It took me time to realize what I had really achieved. Chidandali said, “Standing on that mountain, I was exhausted. tired of my life I remember standing in formation my face covered in dirt and sweat with maybe a few tears mixed in. My drill instructor walked up to me I held out my hand and he handed me my eagle, my globe and my anchor. He said “Congratulations Marine”, and then it finally hit me, I had made it. I was a sailor.
In October 2021, Chidandali had the opportunity to see his little brother, who became Pfc. Ushindi Phanuel, walk across the historic parade bridge at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC, not only as his brother, but also as a fellow Marine.
“Seeing him graduate really brought me back to the parade deck in San Diego and my family watched me graduate.” Chidandali said, “Coming into it, I felt like the black sheep of the family for suddenly leaving them to go to recruit training. Many people close to me and my family thought I was going there was a mistake. But I proved them wrong. Now they see what [Marine Corps] has done for me and what opportunities it has given me. I’m glad I took the leap of faith, and I’m glad I took the initial burden of all the doubts. It was all worth it to stand there and watch my little brother do the same jump and see my family proud of both of us.
“He went through the same hardships as me, but he graduated and became a Marine, that was all about him. He earned his place at the table, and I know he’s going to be better than me, and that makes me even prouder not just to call him my brother, but a Marine,” Chidandali said.
“None of us would have had these opportunities had it not been for the Marine at the US Embassy in Kenya that day. It may have been an insignificant thing for him, but in Thinking about it, this man put food in my stomach and clothes on my back and that little gesture made a lasting impression on me. It made me want to be a Marine, and it made me want to help. others like him. He may never know the impact he had, but he changed my life,” Chidandali said. “If I could see this man again, I would tell him that he is the reason why this desperate child in Kenya, who never dreamed of becoming anything, is now living a life he could not even have imagined. But most importantly, I would tell him, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
|Date posted:||31.01.2022 15:36|
|Site:||CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, USA|
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