August 5, 2012

International Cadet


One of the top schools of the Rio Grande Valley, and the only one of its kind is the Marine Military Academy located in Harlingen, Texas. The Academy’s statement of purpose reads that it was born of a need to preserve the shared values of our country; MMA fills a uniquely important role in the spectrum of American secondary education. An independent, college preparatory school, MMA emulates the high ideals and long-standing traditions of the United States Marine Corps, teaching its Cadets to stretch their mental, physical, cultural and spiritual boundaries to their greatest potential. Leadership skills and disciplined living are learned in a firmly structured, yet understanding environment.

During the summer, MMA offers a Summer Camp for kids ages 12 to 17. This year, 370 young men enrolled and a good number did not advance their waiting list status. Sergeant Arranaga informed me that they could have easily had over 400 camp participants, but the academy does not have the manpower to attend so many of them. These young participants come from all over the country and from Mexico. According to school sources, about 70 young men from Mexico enrolled in this year’s summer camp. My youngest son went to this camp ten years ago, and now some good friends from Mexico City sent their thirteen year old son to South Texas for the adventure of a lifetime.

Their son, Rene, was so thrilled he couldn’t wait for the first day to come; he wanted to be the first one there, almost upset with me for showing up 5 minutes late to pick him up at the hotel to take him to MMA. In contrast, we noticed some of the younger kids in tears as they said their goodbyes to their families. I could also relate to some of the mothers who were crying, for I also cried a decade ago upon saying good bye for a month to my son.  Leni, Rene’s mother, kept sending emails asking if I had any news from the camp because she had sent a few letters via UPS, but had not received any letters from her son. I reminded her that the Mexican postal service is not known for their speediness.

When we all attended the graduation ceremony, I was just as proud of Rene as his parents were. He looked sharp and serious, yet hiding a smile of satisfaction. Rene attends a German private school in Mexico City therefore speaks very good German, and now he experienced  American military training while polishing his English skills – what an amazing opportunity for a young man to emerge himself in other cultures. When I see all these Mexican young men standing there proudly saluting the American flag I cannot help but wonder if the current situation in Mexico involving the military and surrounded by rumors of corruption is affecting their sense of patriotism. Watching them march in the review of arms parade during summer camp graduation, it is obvious they are proud to be part of a great tradition.

They are in the right place because MMA will develop disciplined, morally strong future leaders. Rene said it was a great time and an opportunity to get a glimpse of military life. He also said that he now knows why the United States has the best armed forces in the world, because they offer opportunities like this summer camp, and instill pride in their country among its youth. As for the letters, Rene told his mother he sent over ten of them! I’m sure they will enjoy reading them together when and if they ever arrive at their destination.

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About the Author

Tapia - Gonzales
La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Life, art and culture, poetry, prayers, travel, and camping! yes, that's my new thing. I blame the heat and high humidity for the madness. Contributions and comments are always welcome .



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