Immigrant to citizen: Marine Corps veteran and mom supports community
Immigrant to citizen: Marine Corps veteran and mom supports community
MCAS IWAKUNI, YAMAGUCHI, JAPAN -- What is selflessness? Selflessness can be demonstrated in many different ways, like giving up your seat on public transportation to someone who needs it more than you, making yourself more available for friends and family, or even letting someone have the last slice of pizza. Gestures of kindness like these have the potential to be cherished and remembered by those who receive them. These actions help define selflessness as putting the needs of others before your own.
At MCAS Iwakuni, there is one individual who has gone out of her way to support the people around her. Corina Gonzalez, a Marine Corps veteran, a mother of three, and a frequent volunteer has selflessly given her time, from when she was a child supporting her family in Mexico, to now when she volunteers all over the air station giving her time to organizations that need the extra support.
Corina was raised in Michoacan, Mexico with her parents and seven siblings in the early 1980s. She was one of many children and as energetic as any child could be. “I have lots of memories growing up in Mexico,” said Corina, “The best times were around my siblings. We would always get into mischievous situations. I also remember going out to eat delicious Mexican food, which was always a privilege because we didn’t have it often since we’re a big family.”
Her relatively safe and normal childhood would soon come into conflict. In 1988, hostile environments forced her and her family to cross the United States border to San Diego in search of a more prosperous life.
“There were a lot of bad hombres that were a bad influence,” said Corina. “So my dad decided to remove us from Michoacan to go to the states.”
Corina’s family ended up in Orange County, California where she and her siblings went to school to start their new life after receiving their visa. At the time, she had no ambitions other than having fun in Orange County, but things would change later down the road. She realized she didn’t want to follow the same path as the rest of her family; she wanted to be different. Corina then decided to go to college right after high school and during her first semester, she saw gentlemen in uniform posted at a table. It was the Marines. They asked her if she liked to travel, had a desire to do something different, or have something new to be proud of. She decided that the best thing for her life would be enlisting in the Marine Corps.
“Since I was 17 years old, my recruiter had to go and get a signature from my mom.” said Corina. “My mom said, well if you're going to take her, take my other daughter also. I don't trust Corina because she is always doing stupid stuff. With me being the little troublemaker when I was younger, my mom said your sister will take care of you. The funny thing, it was the other way around. I took care of her because I ended up being physically and mentally stronger than her during bootcamp.”
After she finished basic training in 1998, Corina was sent to Camp Pendleton for her first duty station where she would meet her future husband, Lance Cpl. Carmelo J. Gonzalez, now a Master Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps.
“He was downstairs maintenance and I was upstairs. I would always shout. “Hey, Corina! let's go for breakfast this weekend!” I would always recommend getting chilaquiles at my mom's house since it was only a 40 minute drive from Camp Pendleton. When we made it to Okinawa, he asked me if I wanted to go dancing and I said yes.”
Corina and Carmelo got married on February 14, 1999. In 2001, she decided to finish her time in the Marine Corps and buy a house in Temecula CA for its wine country and to start a family. Corina wanted to put all her effort into making sure they would have a good life. However, she was pulled from the individual ready reserve and recalled to Camp Talega in 2003 due to the events that unfolded after September 11th. When she completed her service in 2004, she became a personal trainer and went back to school to finish her bachelor's degree.
“After I served in the Marine Corps, I finished college at California State University San Marcos.” Said Corina, “During my time I would volunteer in whatever form I could. My daughters and I would feed the homeless as much as possible. I always wanted to help people, especially anytime my husband was on deployment to keep myself busy. I had to figure out a lot of things with my three girls. I guess what I wanted was to be able to manage my life and family and be strong for us because we were always alone. So now when I see that people need help, I want to be able to help because I know how they feel.”
While serving the country and seeing the opportunities you receive as a U.S. citizen, she decided to pursue citizenship. She felt she owed it to herself to earn her citizenship and received it in 2003.
”When my husband asked me if I wanted him to request me, I said no. I’m going to do this on my own. I don’t want people to say that you gave me citizenship.”
In 2018, despite already spending three years in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Corina’s eldest daughter Yanica joined the Marine Corps. Making her not only a Marine veteran and wife, but now also a Marine Mom.
As Yanica began her journey to becoming a Marine, Corina told her daughter “If you ever need help, I'm here for you.”
Corina gave Yanica the opportunity to do whatever she thought was right without Corina controlling Yanica’s decisions. Corina was ready to help her daughter at a moment's notice regardless of if she listened to her mother's advice. All Yanica had to do was ask.
In 2021, Corina and her family moved to MCAS Iwakuni to start their new adventure. Here, she volunteered at numerous organizations including the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, the United Service Organizations (USO), the command team at (VMFA-121) the M.C. Perry High School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), as a Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills (LINKS) mentor with Marine Corps Family Team Building, and she even volunteers with the Iwakuni spouse's club.
This year, Corina was nominated and awarded the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award for outstanding volunteer contributions in community service because she proved herself to be a diligent and dedicated member of this community.
“I knew Corina volunteered at many places on base,” said Christina Grantham, the director of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) at MCAS Iwakuni. ”When I asked why she volunteers for everyone except the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and what would I have to do to get you? She said, "Ask me!" So, I asked, and she said ‘yes!
People like Corina show the quality of citizens that live within the MCAS Iwakuni community. She covers so many demographics from being a veteran, a military spouse, an immigrant, a Marine mom, and a model citizen. With over 500 hours of volunteer service, she will continue to strive for more. She's not satisfied with just going in and performing in that position. She always goes above and beyond to ensure friends and family feel loved and supported.
Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!
Follow us on social media!