New York Marine recalls 9/11

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CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan -- When the planes struck the World Trade Center, his world became one of confusion.


“I heard my teacher and a classmate talking … I looked at them, and I saw it on their faces and experienced it,” Cpl. Charles Guevarra, a native of Long Island, N.Y., recalled while he shared his first memories of September 11. “I didn’t even know English very well at the time.”

Guevarra, a Marine Reservist currently serving with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest), in Helmand province, was in grade school at the time. Though he was born in the Philippines, his family settled in New York City.

Guevarra admits his home wasn’t in the best of neighborhoods: “A good place to live, but not to stay,” as he put it.

“At the time, I said, ‘I need to do something. I want to do something;’” remembered Guevarra.

His personal call to action led to his to joining the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program in high school and a year of schooling at a military academy.

He wanted to be an officer

Guevarra sought out his military commission, but his plans changed when he found that not being a U.S. citizen made him ineligible.

Undeterred, he decided to enter the Marine Corps Reserves while going to school. In May 2009, he joined the military. His 2013 deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom marks his second deployment to Afghanistan.

“I’ve seen it,” said Guevarra,” especially the physical fitness, building camaraderie, seeing new people and going new places.”

In 2010, Guevarra earned his citizenship while training for his military occupational specialty, and returned to New York to continue his academic pursuits.

“I do school, work and the military,” said Guevarra. “[The Marine Corps] has helped me get my citizenship … Now the military is helping me through school.”

He completed his associate’s degree at Nassau Community College in New York and currently seeks to finish his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He said his teachers can see a difference in him since he joined the Marines.

“I think it’s the leadership,” said Guevarra. “Building the leadership up and using it toward school, you’ll see the difference between you and others. You stand out.”

He is not alone in his family. Guevarra said his sister also joined the Marine Corps and recently returned from her own deployment to Afghanistan. As a reservist, he feels deployments are a unique opportunity to bond with his fellow Marines, who he doesn’t otherwise work with on a daily basis.

He even volunteered with his fellow reservists in New York to help recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area last year.

“In reality, it’s building up that camaraderie between you and your friends,” said Guevarra, who makes an effort to visit new recruits in his district during his time in the city.

Guevarra knows this will likely be his last deployment to Afghanistan as the Afghans now lead operations in the country. For now, he’s put his life on hold until he returns from Central Asia.

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