A Fort Belvoir Soldier, who dreamed of joining the Army while playing Soldier, as a child, with his brother and father, is living his dream in ways he never imagined.
Sgt. Marcello Araya, a 299th Engineer Multi-Role Bridge Company, supply sergeant, was selected by his first sergeant to march along with other Army Reservists in the 2013 Presidential Inauguration Parade for President Barack Obama, Monday, from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. Sgt. Darren Cox, 299th Engineer Multi Role Bridge Company training sergeant, was also selected to march in the parade.
"It's a great honor not just for me but for all of my Soldiers in the 299th and everybody that's been deployed with me. I'm representing not only myself and my Family but also them," Araya said. "If I'm there, you guys are there, too."
Araya's journey from basic training to the Inauguration Parade is filled with successes and hardships. He said he's come a long way since enlisting in 2003.
"Every Soldier has his own dreams or goals and one of them is being at the top," Araya said. "That's everybody's dream, that one day I could be up at the top. I'm getting there, slowly but surely."
Araya was born in Miami, Fla., the son of a Costa Rican father and Spanish mother.
The Army was a calling from birth, he said. He doesn't cite any particular reason behind this desire but one childhood moment solidified his inspiration to serve. Araya and his Family were among the many people whose homes were severely damaged by Hurricane Andrew, a category-five storm, in 1992. Araya said Army National Guardsmen provided his Family with food, shelter and one Solider even gave his hat to Araya.
"I still have it," Araya said. "I was just little kid, so that experience boosted my desire to serve even more. I was like 'Yeah, I'm going into the Army.'"
Araya enlisted onto active duty in 2003. He stayed in as a reservist after his active duty term of service but experienced some rough times as a civilian. Araya struggled to maintain a job, his car was repossessed and he and his wife were evicted from their apartment. In 2009 he was going to return to active duty, under a Special Forces military occupational specialty, but then an Active Guard and Reserves position was offered to him, his current position.
"It was like a blessing," Araya said. "I'll never forget that."
Staff Sgt. Desiree Gaddie, 299th Engineer Multi Role Bridge Company, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, has served as Araya's supervisor for three years.
Gaddie called Araya a hard working, dependable and all-around talent in the unit. She's not surprised Araya was selected to participate in the parade.
"I'm ecstatic that's he's able to participate," Gaddie said. "This is an historic event that he gets to be part of. And he's representing us as a unit, which is a plus."
Araya was interviewed by three Hispanic news organizations in response to his participation in the parade. Araya said the reporters asked questions about various topics and one included his sentiments about representing the Hispanic community. Araya said he's very proud to represent his culture but he doesn't lose sight of the Army's team-focused mission.
"In the uniform we're all one, there is no race to me," Araya said. "There's only one team and one goal. I'm proud for all of us."