CAMP ARFIJAN, Kuwait – The Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, born first sergeant deployed here with the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command looks forward to the Army’s annual Hispanic Heritage observance with pride and curiosity.
“Every September-October timeframe, I always look at the videos, I always look at the programs, and I always go to the festivities," said 1st Sgt. Juan C. Colonrosado, the top NCO at the 3rd ESC's Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
“It gives you a sense of pride, a sense of being somebody and part of something bigger than myself that has brought me joy and brought me tears, too,” he said.
“It is for our Soldiers,” Colonrosado said. “It shows the world that we are part of this organization and that we contribute to this nation.”
The first sergeant said he grew up in the commonwealth island and his family's roots there go back several generations, so when he meets another Soldier with ties to Puerto Rico, it is always special.
"We become instant brothers and sisters, like instant family, I have never seen a brotherhood which is so close," he said. "We just talk and from the first moment, it's like we've known each other forever."
Colonrosado said growing up, his mother was a schoolteacher, and his father was an industrial manager who ran a plant for a concrete manufacturer. He said he tried college, but it was not for him, so he decided to try the Army.
"I was 24 years old; it was late," he said.
"I tried the college experience, but the college was not in me; I guess God had another plan," he said. "I got tired of not doing anything. I was looking out for my future, so I started my Army career."
The first sergeant said he enlisted in the Army in December 1998.
“Next thing, you know, I was on my way to Fort Sill, Oklahoma,” he said. “It was a sunny December day in Puerto Rico, but not when I landed in Oklahoma. It was cold.”
Beyond the weather shock was the culture shock, he said.
"Especially during the holidays, like Christmas. Christmas in Puerto Rico is pretty big. It's a family-oriented holiday, so being away in that time for the first time in 24 years was very, very emotional."
The senior electronics maintenance supervisor, or 94 Mike, said he was unsure if he could stick it out. “It crossed my mind to quit.”
As he progressed through his basic combat training, the father of two said struggled with homesickness for Puerto Rico.
“What am I doing here? I am supposed to be home,” he said he thought. “Thanks to God, everything worked out.”
Part of it working out was meeting his wife, Ashley, when they were both stationed together in Hawaii.
"I see this young, beautiful girl, and we were introduced to each other," Colonrosado said. “The next thing you know, we were dating, and we got married.”
The first sergeant said although his wife has Mexican grandparents, she comes from a mixed ethnic background and does not speak Spanish. "She looks a little Hispanic, and there was a cultural connection."
Colonrosado said his two sons, Jan Marcos, 18, and Jayden Xavier, 10, both understand Spanish but do not speak it.
“Jan is a cadet in Junior Navy ROTC,” he said. “He wants to join the Marines, but I got other plans; but at the end of the day, he’s an adult.”
The first sergeant said it bothers him his deployment here takes him away from his family, but his service in the Army has been worth it.
“I can look back right now, and I don’t regret a thing,” the first sergeant said. “If I had stayed home, I would not have become the man I am today.”