Face of Defense: Army Infantryman is Proud to Serve
By Army Sgt. Antony S. Lee
Regional Command South
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 14, 2014 Clark Cepeda, now serving as an infantry private first class in the U.S. Army, was a civilian when he took his two sons to get their hair cut near their home in Marlton, N.J., in 2013.
Army Pfc. Clark Cepeda works at his computer at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 9, 2014. Cepeda, a training room clerk for 4th Infantry Brigade Combat, 4th Infantry Division, is serving on his first deployment. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Antony S. Lee
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Cepeda came across a military recruiting station close to the barber shop.
It had been less than a year since he moved his family from the Philippines to the United States, and Cepeda’s dream as a child growing up in the Philippines was to serve in the military.
His grandfather, whom he helped to care for, was a decorated veteran who fought for the Philippines during World War II and survived the Bataan Death March. His service, Cepeda said, was a major influence for his childhood dream.
Cepeda said he tried to join the Philippine navy years ago, but was turned down. “I thought I could no longer be in the military because of my age,” he added, noting that he was 34 when he decided to look into joining the U.S. Army. Despite his doubts, he said, he talked to a recruiter. When he learned he could join and pursue his childhood dream, he wasted no time scheduling an appointment to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
“When [the recruiter] told me I could still join, I didn’t believe him at first,” he said. “This [was] my last chance. This was my dream since I was a kid.”
Cepeda enlisted May 20, 2013, and shipped to Fort Benning, Ga., to complete his training as an infantryman. After graduating in September 2013, he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., to serve with the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He recently arrived here with the unit for his first deployment.
“I’m now with one of the most prestigious military organizations in the world,” he said.
Cepeda’s time in the Army thus far has provided him several valuable experiences, including his participation in a naturalization ceremony. Three days before he graduated from infantry school, he officially became a U.S. citizen -- a moment he said was “very much” a big one for him. He was promoted to private first class shortly after arriving here.
Army Staff Sgt. Benjamin Kimball, Cepeda’s supervisor, said Cepeda is one of the hardest-working soldiers he has ever worked with. “He is an excellent soldier,” he said. “As soon as he understands his task, he completes it and excels at it.”
Though trained as an infantryman, Cepeda has been working as a training room clerk, and he has adapted to his new job, Kimball added.
Cepeda said he serves in the Army in large part because he and his wife, a nurse, want to provide better lives for their children than they had growing up. His first son recently told him that he wants to join the Army one day.
“It makes me very proud, because he already knows what he’s doing,” Cepeda said. “He knows I’m fighting for the country that provided us the opportunities and accepted us wholeheartedly.”
Cepeda said his dream of serving in the military became even greater after seeing the Sept. 11 attacks on television while he and his wife were preparing for their son’s first birthday in 2001.
“You [could] feel the pain,” he said. “It [made] you angry at whoever did this.” More than 12 years later, Cepeda reflected on the opportunity to serve his country in Afghanistan.
“This is my dream -- to be in the military,” he said. “I love my job.”