United States Marine Corps veteran Georges Esperance, now 33, moved to the U.S. when he was 18 from Port-au-Prince, Haiti with the hope of finding a better life. Feeling directionless, Esperance enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 23 because he thought it would be a real challenge. "I had an intense desire to do something meaningful." One year later, he was deployed to Fallujah.
Esperance didn't tell his parents he had joined the military until after he already enlisted. Initially shocked, Esperance's parents came to support his life-changing choice. While in Iraq, Esperance's two sisters also moved to the U.S. Though he was able to support them financially, Esperance worried how his siblings would cope in a country where they didn't speak the language. Eventually, his sisters found employment and were able to support themselves.
As a machine gunner, Esperance was sent to the front lines. He found the experience to be exciting, but also very intense. Since he spent his youth living with extended family in one house, close quarters Marine life suited Esperance well. And, as opposed to many of his fellow Marines, Esperance was not unsettled by the conditions in Iraq- such as young children playing soccer barefoot in what was an active battlefield. Esperance actually saw something of himself in those barefoot kids, as he also spent much of his childhood playing with a soccer ball to distract himself from the harshness of everyday life.
Esperance decided to further his education, earning a degree in finance by the time he was honorably discharged in 2010. Unfortunately, the state of the economy at that time made finding a job in the financial sector difficult. So, Esperance worked as a bank teller and a security guard to support himself. Eventually, with the help of a military connection, he was able to land the finance position he's held for over two years now.
Asked what he'd say to his fellow veterans, past, present and future, Esperance said, "You made the right choice. By finding a purpose greater than yourself, serving a nation, leaving family behind and risking your life, you made the right choice. In my personal experience, there is no greater feeling then serving a greater cause. When people thank me for my service, I want to thank them back for allowing me the opportunity to join the military so I could fight terrorism on behalf of the American people. These are the things that inspire me. These are the things worth risking your life for."
Mario McKellop is a freelance writer who has covered the pop culture beat since 2010.
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