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Face of Defense: Haiti Native Gets Hometown Promotion

By Navy Lt. Arlo Abrahamson
Special to American Forces Press Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 2, 2010 – A Haitian-born Marine working with the Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command was promoted to gunnery sergeant before family and friends here yesterday.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Michel Leandre Jr., a Haitian-American U.S. Marine with Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command deployed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, receives the insignia of his new rank of gunnery sergeant from his uncle and cousin during a promotion ceremony, March 1, 2010. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty officer Robert J. Fluegel

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Michel Leandre, who was born in Port-au-Prince, moved to the U.S. when he was 6. He volunteered to deploy as a Creole interpreter after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

For Leandre, circumstances and timing provided him an opportunity to assist the Haitian people. To be promoted in the city of his birth was an experience that would not have crossed his mind just a few months ago.

“This is very personal for me,” Leandre said. “My mission here has been to help fellow servicemembers communicate better with the people, because I know the culture and the language. But to pause today and be promoted to gunny in front of my family and friends is something I never imagined would happen and will never forget.”

Danemarck Jacques, Leandre’s uncle and a part-time resident of Port-au-Prince, said he’s not surprised to see his nephew being promoted or to hear about the important role he is playing in Haiti.

“Michel was always a strong and focused person, even when he was young,” Jacques said. “We are proud of his promotion today, but even more proud that he’s here helping Haitians during this difficult time.”

With the joy of accomplishing a major milestone in his Marine Corps career, Leandre now focuses his attention back on the mission of helping people through his language skills.

“I always feel like there’s more I can do,” Leandre said. “The people here have gone through so much. When I talk to Haitians in the street, they often tell me, ‘We’re glad you’re here. You provide us with a little bit of hope for our future.’”

(Navy Lt. Arlo Abrahamson serves in the Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command public affairs office.)

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Haiti Earthquake Relief

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