Face of Defense: Russian Orphan Finds Home in Marine Corps
By Marine Corps Sgt. James Mercure
Regimental Combat Team 6, 1st Marine Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan, April 4, 2012 Growing up in Russia, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sergey Huber had a rough childhood and knew he had to run away from his abusive father.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sergey Huber shows off a bird he found in an abandoned compound during an operation in Urmoz, Afghanistan. Born in Russia, Huber lived in an orphanage for several years before being adopted and brought to America as a child. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James Mercure
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
When he was 10, Huber and his brother ran to a Russian military base. They lived there under the care of soldiers until the base commander had them taken to an orphanage, where they lived for several years.
“When we were first taken to the orphanage, we were put into an isolation room with bars on the windows that we bent enough to slide out and run for it later that night,” said Huber, a squad automatic weapon gunner with 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I was caught several hours later, and it took them days to catch my brother. Over the years, we kept trying to escape, but after a while we realized we had nowhere to go, so we just lived our life at the orphanage.”
After a few years had passed, the orphanage director told Huber he would be going to the United States to live with a family who wanted to adopt him.
“I went to America for a summer with my adopted parents, and I ended up falling in love with the place,” Huber said. “I got to go to summer camp while my parents worked, and I couldn’t believe how much stuff they had. It felt unreal.”
As the summer ended, Huber had to go back to Russia while the adoption paperwork was finalized. Uncertain when his parents would come back to get him, Huber went back to his daily life at the orphanage.
“I remember it was cold, and I was sitting down to a bowl of soup, looking out the window, and I saw my parents walking toward the orphanage,” Huber said. “I ran out in the snow barefoot, and my dad picked me up and said something in English that I didn’t understand. But we were all smiling, and it was a happy time for me.”
But as Huber grew up, he had more family trouble and found himself living out of his car at 17.
Showering at a local gym and still struggling to finish school, Huber was invited to live with one of his classmates -- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jim Roche, fire team leader, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, and a man he now calls his brother.
“When I found out from a friend that he was living out of his car, my mom and I went down there and told him he was welcome to stay with us,” said Roche, a 20-year-old from Wall Township, N.J. “He calls my parents Mom and Dad. He is a brother to me.
“After high school he didn’t really have a plan, and I knew I was joining the Marines, so we went to boot camp together and the school of infantry,” Roche continued. “We deployed together last year to Afghanistan and again this year. It’s great having him around, because when you start to miss home, you’ve got family two tents away.”
Huber said having Roche with him inspired him to make it through recruit training and to excel as a Marine.
“During boot camp I thought about quitting, but I would look over and see Jim standing there going through the same things, and I couldn’t let him down,” said Huber, 22. “I’ve been a SAW gunner for quite some time now, and last year, I was the best in the company. But the most important part of this is teaching my junior guys how to be better. If they become more effective gunners, I’ve done my job.”
Though he has faced many life struggles, Huber said, he looks on the bright side and is grateful to serve with the men to his left and right. He has found a home at last with his Marines.
“The United States has done so much for me,” he said. “I have a family, I have a brotherhood, and when I decide to get out, I have all my guys I can call if I need anything, and they can do the same.”