• Spc. Mario Molina, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, stands among his fellow Basic Combat Training graduates Feb. 13 outside Sheridan Theater. Molina left Bogota, Colombia when he was young to escape the Colombian drug war. He said when 9/11 happened he felt he had to do something.

    Serving the U.S.

    Spc. Mario Molina, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, stands among his fellow Basic Combat Training graduates Feb. 13 outside Sheridan Theater. Molina left Bogota, Colombia when he was young to escape the Colombian drug war. He said when...

  • Spc. Mohamed Baker, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, renders a salute before walking across the stage to graduate from Basic Combat Training and become a United States citizen Feb. 13 at Fort Sill. Baker has lived in the U.S. for four years and said he decided to serve as a way to show his appreciation to a country that had already given him so much.

    Citizen-Soldier

    Spc. Mohamed Baker, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, renders a salute before walking across the stage to graduate from Basic Combat Training and become a United States citizen Feb. 13 at Fort Sill. Baker has lived in the U.S. for four...

FORT SILL, Okla. -- Some of America's newest Soldiers did not start out as Americans.

Somewhere in their journey for citizenship they developed a love for this country that is so strong they would bear arms to defend it.

"When I compare Palestine, my old home, and America, my new home, I feel that I am comparing between a mom that I love and a wife that I love," said Spc. Mohamed Baker, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery. "My home, Palestine, is like my mother. I love her, but I did not choose who my mother was going to be. America is like the wife that I love because a person chooses their wife."

Baker has lived in the United States for four years, and he said he was having a hard time deciding how to show his appreciation to a country that had already given him so much.

"I remember the first day when I stepped in Chicago Airport. The immigration officer told me, 'Welcome to the U.S.' That moment I felt a little bit different. I felt like there's something inside me ... I can't explain it, but it was a kind of happiness. I thought about it and said I've got to show some appreciation for that since somebody welcomed me in their country. I didn't feel that feeling back home. I said the best way is by joining the military."

Graduation day for him was a life-changing event.

"Here I am in February, graduation day and besides that I'm getting a citizenship. I'm so happy."

Baker said his life back home was hard and as he goes on to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for training in the medical field he wants to be able to share his talents of healing with those who need it most.

"I'm serving a country that's providing liberty and freedom not just for the U.S., but for all over the world."

Baker said being from the Middle East, he saw the U.S. government's influence on political change there.

"I want to be a part of that to help give more freedom for more people."

For Spc. Mario Molina, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, his journey into the Army started almost 20 years ago.

"On June 23, 1993 in the midst of the Colombian drug war, my siblings and I received notice we were moving to the United States for safety. We didn't receive much of a notice except for pack your bags and we're leaving in three days."

He said leaving Bogota in the middle of the night left a lifelong impression on him.

He said during that time the Colombian government was struggling to fight off narcotics trafficking, not only because the cartels were too strong, but also because government officials were either corrupt or under death threats.

"From the start, my mother played the biggest role in this new adventure and had it not been for her, my sisters and I would have never achieved the milestones we have been able to overcome. One day without anyone's aide and without a translator, my mother had us get dressed and with transcripts in hand my sisters and I went from having absolutely nothing to fall back on to being registered at a local high school and continue progressing through our educational goals."

Molina continued his education and now has two bachelor's degrees and two master's degrees and will go on to serve in intelligence operations.

"My intestinal fortitude to adapt and to overcome comes from my mother. If she could hold three different jobs and walk back-and-forth to both work and school, I just had no excuses to not only learn English, but to also to face challenges head on.

He said he began to read subtitles on TV and developed his writing and communication skills.

"In fact I think I have looked up every English word I know in the dictionary and funny enough I still own the dictionary that got me through the toughest times," said Molina.

Molina said seeing tragedy in the United States motivated him to serve.

"9/11 had the biggest impact on me especially because I had friends that lived near the area. In my head all I could think about was if I had to leave my country for the same sort of issues I just couldn't accept the fact that this would happen here in my new home."

While Molina and Baker followed different paths to get to Fort Sill, they along with the other trainees were molded by the same drill sergeants. Something they are thankful for.

"All the drill sergeants and cadre, they do a hard job because they're trying to melt all these different people from different cultures, different backgrounds and make them in one shape: the American Soldier. We appreciate them," said Baker.

Page last updated Fri February 21st, 2014 at 00:00