Letters from the Front!
By Phyllis Denisse Almaraz
First Class Petty Officer, United States Coast Guard
My name is Phyllis Denisse Almaraz, and I am a Culinary Specialist First Class Petty Officer in the United States Coast Guard. I first learned about the U.S. Coast Guard when my cousin graduated basic training and returned home as a focused and structured man. I was very motivated by my cousin, and a part of me thought if he can do it, so can I. Shortly after, I began the process to join the U.S. Coast Guard. Graduating from basic training was my biggest challenge as push-ups and running were not my strong suit. I was quickly put on a remedial physical fitness program where I would wake up an hour earlier than other trainees and work on improving my push-ups and running. There was so much sweat and tears during this remedial program, but I never stopped trying to improve. Upon graduating bootcamp, I realized that anything was possible with hard work and determination. This thinking set up my career for success, but I would not be where I am today if not for my family’s support in Mexico and the United States.
My earliest childhood memories stem from my upbringing in Mexico City, where my grandmother and grandfather raised me, my brother, and my cousin. My mother was working endless hours in Chicago and saving money so that when we moved back to the United States, she could support us. Growing up in Mexico taught me the importance of family, education, and community. In Mexico, friends are treated as family; if one person does not have food, they were helped by the community. Upon immigrating to the United States, I faced a new set of challenges, such as learning English, making new friends, and adapting to American culture. There was a time I would not speak at all because I was self-conscious of my English accent, and as I grew older, I learned to embrace it. My ethic and values are what make me, not my English accent.
Throughout my career I have had challenges and many people have doubted my abilities, but I do not let this discourage me; instead, I prove them wrong. I excel with everything I put my mind to, and when challenges arise, I overcome them. This is the same warrior or guerrera mindset my family in Mexico taught me, and it is what made me the strong woman I am today. My goal while continuing my Coast Guard career is to help others and mentor personnel so that they can feel supported and further succeed in their career. Currently, my brother is in U.S. Coast Guard basic training, and I plan on helping him every step of his career. Additionally, I would offer this help to any person who needs it because I too have mentors who have heavily influenced the success of my career. I want to end this article by thanking my family, friends, and mentors for their continued support.