Face of Defense: Recruit Joins Marines to Return Favor
By Marine Corps Pfc. Emily Cone
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego
SAN DIEGO, Aug. 9, 2010 People have many reasons for joining the Marine Corps. These reasons can include family tradition or a strong desire to serve, but one recruit here joined the Corps because a group of Marines saved his father’s life.
Marine Corps Pfc. Wendu Gebremichael, foreground, listens to directions before providing part of a perimeter around an obstacle on the confidence course at Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot San Diego, Calif., July 27, 2010. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Emily Cone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Corps Pfc. Weldu Aregawi Gebrimichael said he was inspired to join after hearing how a Marine sniper team saved his father’s life.
His father, Weldu Aregawi Gebrimichael, was an activist against the communist government in Ethiopia, and was known to have valuable information that could be used to fight them, Gebrimichael said. The communist government had gained a foothold in Ethiopia in the early 1980s after a series of droughts and famines that affected 8 million people and left 1 million dead.
His father fled to Sudan with other activists, but was captured by the Ethiopian government. Later, he was rescued by Marines who were conducting operations in Sudan at the time, said Gebrimichael.
He said his father returned to Ethiopia in 1988, and shortly afterward Gebrimichael was born and given his father’s full name, which is an Ethiopian custom.
A short while later, his father moved to the United States for his safety. Gebrimichael grew up in Ethiopia with his mother, never having known his father or hearing the story of the Marines who had save his father’s life.
It wasn’t until five years ago, at the age of 17, that Gebrimichael was able to come to the United States, sent for by the father he had never met. It was then he learned that his father’s life was saved by Marines.
“I knew I wanted to join the Marine Corps as soon as I heard the story about Marines saving my father’s life,” Gebrimichael said. But first, he chose to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to learn English.
“I will finish college while I am in the Marine Corps, but I stopped for now so I could enlist,” he said.
“He shone among his pears because he had a better attitude and was very enthusiastic and motivated,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Zachary Taylor, Gebrimichael’s drill instructor. “He refused to quit, even when it got hard on him. He did more than exceptionally well on the tests.”
Gebrimichael has earned a sharpshooter badge on the rifle range and excelled in his physical fitness test. He finished the 54-hour Crucible, the final task to complete before earning the title of Marine, with his fellow recruits, culminating in a nine-mile hike called the Reaper, on July 29, and then received his eagle, globe and anchor emblem, the symbol of the Marine Corps.
“On the Crucible, he worked hard,” Taylor said. “I think he put out max effort. It was exhausting, and he never lagged behind. At the emblem ceremony, he really had earned it.”