Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego -- Liberia, located in West Africa, is one of the world’s poorest countries with some factions of its population having extreme religious views. These views led Pvt. Sampson P. Ogunti to the Marine Corps.
Ogunti, Platoon 2165, Company H, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, migrated to the United States and used the loss of his mother and past experiences as motivation to become a Marine.
Ogunti grew up in Liberia. His parents were divorced and he lived with his mother and grandfather. At the age of five, Ogunti was poisoned by his grandfather who was offering him as sacrifice as part of his religious practice. As a safety precaution, after he received medical attention, Ogunti began to live with his aunt because she was a medical doctor. As a result, distance grew between himself and his mother.
“I didn’t get to see my mom as much because she lived on the other side of the city,” said 24-year-old Ogunti. “I felt like one of my aunts kids because she raised me for six years.”
After living six years with his aunt, his father decided to move Ogunti and his half-brother and half-sister to a different country because of Ogunti’s grandfather. He was seeking to finish the religious ritual. Ogunti’s father was very meticulous in his action to protect him. The family settled in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
“I constantly looked over my shoulder,” said Ogunti. “I couldn’t trust people.”
In December 2003, Ogunti and his family migrated to the United States in search for a safer and better life. His mother stayed back in Liberia. The family kept in contact through phone and email with his mother but never made a trip back to see her. In March 2012, Ogunti received news that his mother had died.
“I didn’t know how to take it because I spoke with her on the phone three weeks prior,” said Ogunti. “It was hard because I wanted to be there but couldn’t because of the past situation.”
Ogunti did not get to see his mother again but he wanted to make her proud. According to Ogunti, his mother always expected a lot from him and to always try to better himself. He used the memory of his mother as motivation to become an example to his siblings.
“The military was something I wanted to do,” said Ogunti. “I decided the Corps was the place for me because I wanted to do something that mattered to make her proud.”
Ogunti shipped off to recruit training on Sept. 12. His drill instructors, after they listened to his story, gained an insight to the difficulties some recruits overcame to become Marines.
“It’s rare for someone to come into the Marine Corps after all those experiences,” said Sgt. Justin M. Prophet, senior drill instructor, a Canton, Ohio native. “He makes sacrifices to help out others in the platoon. He is a team player and I can tell he tries hard.”
The culture in which he grew up led him to the United States. He used the memory of his mother and his experiences as a child to become a better person. He will go on a 10-day leave period before he attends Marine Combat Training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., to learn the basic skills of a rifleman. He can continue to honor the memory of his mother and set the example to his siblings as a United States Marine.