MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CA --
A former East LA gang member is living proof that hardships don’t define who you are.
Gunnery Sgt. Gabriel “Angel” Jaramillo, an Officer Candidate School drill instructor in Quantico, Va. rose above the infamous LA stereotype through his passion for soccer and motivation to succeed.
“I became a dad at 17,” he said, noting that he gave up soccer scholarships to join the Marine Corps. “I didn’t want to be a dead-beat-dad. I didn’t want to continue that trend. I just wanted stability for my daughter.”
To “Angel,” soccer was and is his outlet; his therapeutic way to escape the streets, and now to escape the daily stressors of the Corps.
“Three years as a drill instructor, two deployments and now three years at OCS, there’s been plenty of times where you turn to soccer to get away from home and just get away from the Marine Corps a little bit,” he said. “Your mind is focused on the sport and the sport only.”
But the Marine Corps is what changed his direction and motivation to succeed.
“Once I got that eagle, globe and anchor," he said, referring to the Marine Corps emblem,"It just changed my mind-set. Ever since I joined, I’ve been more passionate about the Marine Corps than the actual sport because the Marine Corps is a way of life. It got me out of trouble, and it got me out of my past.”
Now a father of three, and captain of the All Marine Soccer Team, Jaramillo applies his 13 years of Marine Corps experience and parenting skills to the field.
“My drive at this point, being the senior enlisted member of the soccer team, is that you can always mentor and continue to lead Marines,” he said.
For the first time since its beginning in 1981, the 2012 Armed Forces Soccer Championship was held on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Sept. 23-30, and of more than 150 submissions, Jaramillo was considered to try out for the team for the sixth time.
“I’ve been blessed being able to compete at the highest level with the Armed Forces,” said Jaramillo. Regardless of being on the team six times, he’s never overconfident about making it. “If I’m not nervous, then I’m not going to perform to the level that I want to. Everyone thinks I’m confident, but I’m not. I’m competing with 22-23 year old corporals, and here I am as a 31-year-old gunnery sergeant.”
Although this year the Marine Corps took third place in the competition, Jaramillo said it’s not about winning the medals.
“My main focus is to represent the Marine Corps,” he said. “I’m here for the Marines and to wear this jersey.”