Latina Letters From the Front!
By Captain Jennifer Noreña, Officer Selection Officer, United States Marine Corps
A few years ago, I came across a quote that resonated with me. It read, “living in America with Colombian roots.” My twin sister and I are first-generation Americans. Our family is from Colombia. Our parents instilled in us the values they were taught, such as hard work, dedication, relentless pursuit of your dreams, and never forgetting where we came from. As we got older and learned the story of how our parents came to the United States, I remember thinking how incredibly courageous they both are.
Our father came to the United States when he was 30 years old in search of work, even though he did not know the language. He was able to support his family back in Colombia thanks to a job he got as a dishwasher. My mother, the youngest and only woman out of four children, bravely decided to come to the United States at 26 years old in search of the American Dream. She worked as a housekeeper so that, like my father, she could support her family back home. They sacrificed everything to have the opportunity for a better life. Throughout the years, I’ve seen them overcome every obstacle and work tirelessly to provide for the people they love.
I thought about ways to give back to this amazing country for all the opportunities offered to my family; opportunities that would not be possible in Colombia. I decided I wanted to join the military. My parents had one request: that I earn my degree first. Education was extremely important to them since my sister and I would be the first in our family to get a college degree in the United States. In my senior year of college, a good friend of mine informed me about the Marine Corps Officer Program. I applied for the program knowing I had a lot of work to do to be selected. I had to prove to my recruiter that I was a dedicated, hardworking, physically fit, and mentally tough candidate. It was not going to be easy, but when I thought about what my parents endured to make their dreams come true, I knew I had it in me.
I was selected to attend Officer Candidates School, graduated, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 2015. Throughout my time in the Marine Corps, I have had the privilege of leading some of the most incredible people I have ever met, witnessing them advance as Marines and leaders while also playing a part in their development. Being a Marine Corps Officer certainly has its challenges, but every challenge has been worth it for my Marines. Additionally, the Marine Corps has given me extraordinary mentors and friendships that will last a lifetime.
My parents’ sacrifice is the reason I joined the Marine Corps. I owe it all to them. I am proud to be an American Marine Officer with Colombian roots.