CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Staff Sgt. Welington E. David is not afraid to speak up.
“I’ll keep serving until I can’t serve anymore, just so I can be a representation of my homeland, the voice of those who cannot be heard, and an advocate for everybody who needs somebody,” the automated logistics specialist said.
David, 28, is currently assigned to the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based 264th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, and has been deployed here since September supporting the 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, 1st Theater Sustainment Command. 1st TSC is responsible for sustainment operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
The staff sergeant took a few moments away from his work as the Sustainment Automation Support Management Office noncommissioned officer in charge—which includes duties of managing the sustainment equipment and Very Small Aperture Terminal satellites in Jordan and Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve—to talk about why he serves.
‘I had to go out and find that opportunity’
David is passionate about being a Pacific Islander who hails from Saipan, the largest island in the Northern Mariana Islands chain, located approximately 120 miles north of Guam.
“[I] love the beauty, the pride, and the culture of the island,” he said. “I miss the smell of the ocean and the taste of the island’s finest delicacies.”
The staff sergeant said he did not tell his mother, Valentina Elewel, that he had enlisted in the U.S. Army in August of 2012 until he was about to leave the island for basic training.
“It kind of broke her, but she was more supportive because … she didn’t want me to be home where there’s no opportunities,” he said. “She wanted me to be able to leave the nest and be able to do bigger and better things with my life.”
David said his mother did the best she could raising him and his four siblings with limited means. “It was a hard time, and people speak about they don’t have too much growing up, but realistically I really didn’t have a lot—in actuality, I had nothing.”
The staff sergeant said he learned about the Army from the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in high school and from his godfather, Joaquin Kiyoshi, a retired sergeant major who served as the JROTC instructor. He concluded that the military was a gateway for representing his homeland while taking care of his family.
The staff sergeant is always mindful that his mother cared for him, and he works hard to honor her sacrifices for him.
“I didn't want to stay stagnant and wait for an opportunity to come to me; I had to go out and find that opportunity,” David said.
“My inspiration really was my mom,” he continued. “It is my way of tribute and of paying her back for all the hardship that she has gone through just to be able to get me to where I am today.”
The staff sergeant attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia. Since he completed training, he has been assigned to Fort Drum, New York, Fort Riley, Kansas, Camp Humphries, South Korea, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After his Kuwait deployment, he will accept an assignment at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.
David said he is extremely grateful for everything the Army has given him during his decade-long period of service: the honor to be a representative of his homeland, a home and a paycheck he never thought he’d have, travel, the opportunity to attend college—he is six courses away from earning his bachelor’s degree in business management—and even the "trials and tribulations."
Most importantly, he said, the Army has given him a desire to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
‘We’re all in this together’
David remembers being a young Soldier who felt he could not speak up for himself.
The staff sergeant is unashamed about having sought help in the past for his mental health issues and is somber when he talks about the discrimination he has faced because of his race and sexual orientation.
The Saipan native said there were several challenges that could have tripped him up early in his career that boiled down to equal opportunity, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, and mental health.
“I think those are the biggest challenges we all face—mental health being the biggest because I think for some reason there’s a stigma behind it all,” he said. “People are afraid to seek the help that they need.
“I face those challenges every day, and I don't hold onto them; I brush them off,” David continued. “My passion to keep doing this is to be a voice so those who are feeling the way I do can speak up, that they’re not afraid and that they’re not alone, that we’re all here in this together, and that there is always somebody to listen, to hear you.”
The staff sergeant said he works to be a part of the solution by serving as his unit's Equal Opportunity Leader and by educating his Soldiers.
“I'm not afraid to open up to my Soldiers on what I've been through because … somebody may need to hear it from somebody who's experienced it so that they can break through whatever it is that they're going through,” he said. “The biggest thing I try to impart on my Soldiers … [is to] understand each other, that we’re all diverse and we all have different backgrounds … and just understanding each other helps build a cohesive team.”
David said he is hopeful as he has seen “a huge improvement” since he enlisted in the way the Army has addressed issues of inclusion and diversity.
“We’re all in this together; we’re in the same fight,” he said. “We’re growing, and we’re learning, and everybody’s adapting. It’s continuously motivating me.
“I want to be that voice,” he continued. “If I know I’m at a position where I can speak on behalf of my Soldiers because they can't speak because they have no voice in a lot of things, I will be that voice.”