ABOARD USS CARTER HALL – Marines come from all over.
Just ask Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alvaro Morales.
Hoping to find a better life, Morales and his father traveled to Miami from Chinandega, Nicaragua, in 1998.
Morales, assigned to Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., teams with Marines from more than half a dozen countries.
Back in Nicaragua “there were barely any jobs -- things were just bad,” Morales recalled. “Things were not good over there.”
After Morales arrived in Miami, he spent the next several years in the area.
“I literally went to six elementary schools and five middle schools,” he said. “I got to stay in one high school for four years. That was pretty exciting. It’s pretty difficult, moving around and meeting new people all the time. We just kept moving from better to better.”
After high school, Morales attended Miami-Dade College for a semester, studying criminal justice with the intention of joining the local police force. Life, however, had different plans, and financial troubles forced him to withdraw.
He joined the Marine Corps shortly afterward. “I needed a way to go to college,” Morales said. “From what I heard from friends that had already joined, it was a challenge. It was going to be tough. But I thought it would build strong character.
Morales was sent to school to train as an amphibious assault vehicle crewman.
“Everything we do training-wise, learning my own MOS [military occupational specialty], has been a challenge,” he said. “You have to know how to drive and how to fix anything in the [amphibious assault vehicle] in case something breaks.”
Currently, Morales is deployed with the 26th MEU’s AAV Platoon aboard the USS Carter Hall.
He said he still intends to become a police officer in Miami after completing his military service.
“I just thought it was a great job for the future. I never had any intention of doing something else,” Morales said of his dream of becoming a police officer.
And he misses Miami.
“I love it. It’s a paradise to me. You have clubs -- the nightlife, the parties and the environment. The people are friendly,” Morales said. “There’re a lot of things to do there, and the food is amazing. You have a lot of different Latin food.”
He added, “To us Hispanics, yes, food is very important. Trying new types of food is amazing.”
Morales said he’s happy to answer his fellow Marines’ questions about Hispanic culture.
“I mean, I don’t think it’s important, but guys I’ve met here are always asking questions, like how different are Spanish countries,” he said.