News: From tragedy to triumph: Haitian Marine shows gratitude to Corps for helping after earthquake
OKINAWA, Japan - "I was screaming, trying to get help,” said Pfc. Junior F. Saintville. “I saw a hole, so I crawled through it and then someone pulled me into the street. That’s when I realized it was an earthquake.”
Saintville’s life-changing experience occurred Jan. 12, 2010, when a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated the small country of Haiti, killing over 300,000 people and affecting millions of others, according to the Haitian government. However, for Saintville, through this tragic incident came inspiration.
“I was at school on the fifth floor, and I felt the building shake,” said Saintville, now a motor transport mechanic with Ordnance Maintenance Company, 3rd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Everyone started running and screaming, and the next thing I knew, I woke up and realized the building had collapsed.”
He and other survivors, whom were all on the same floor, remained on the streets for several hours before returning home. Some, including Saintville, did not receive proper medical treatment until days later.
Many hospitals were destroyed, and the ones that were still operational were overwhelmed, according to Saintville. “At one hospital, I was told I would not be treated for months.”
Eight days later, he made it to a hospital on the back of a friend’s bicycle that was escorted by Marines who were in country to maintain order so people could receive treatment.
“This Marine chose me,” said Saintville, a Port-Au-Prince, Haiti native. “He told me to (follow him), and (he would) try to get someone to help. There were many others outside, but he chose me and I was able to get help.”
Inside the hospital, U.S. Navy medical staff treated Saintville’s injuries consisting of a dislocated leg, cuts and bruises.
“It was like a miracle. It was like (they were sent) especially for me,” said the 28-year-old mechanic.
Sainteville’s family in America eventually contacted him and brought him to Brooklyn, N.Y., in September 2010. A few months later, while taking classes at a local college, he decided he needed a change of pace.
“I wanted to be someone who could help when things (like the situation in Haiti) happen,” said Saintville. “It was nice to see (U.S. service members) help people, but as a Haitian, I wanted to (see our people helping). I wanted to help everyone (in a) situation (like) we were in Haiti.”
Saintville conveyed his wishes to his family, found a local recruiter, and left for Marine Corps recruit training June 13, 2011.
After graduating boot camp and military occupational specialty school, Saintville arrived on Okinawa in March 2012.
“Saintville has had a positive impact since joining (intermediate maintenance activity) North,” said Gunnery Sgt. Marco A. Munozvega, staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of IMA, north, a part of the company. “He is a mature, levelheaded Marine who strives to contribute on a daily basis.”
Saintville echoes Munozvega’s statement by keeping a positive mindset while maintaining vehicles in his care.
“Listening to music and turning wrenches makes you feel so alive,” said Saintville. “Someone depends on you because if the (vehicle) is not fixed (properly), the mission can fail or someone could get hurt. I feel like I’m someone important.”
Recently, Saintville started the process to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, a process he originally had not intended on going through.
“At first I did not want to change my nationality,” he said. “But when I joined and served I realized, if I am a part of the service, why not be a citizen.”
Saintville’s commitment and dedication to his new homeland has not been overlooked, as his story continues inspiring others he encounters.
“Saintville has enough courage for three men,” said Sgt. Ian B. Marquardt, an IMA operations chief. “He has overcome a lot of adversity and risen above it to better himself. This is a direct reflection of the core values of honor, courage and commitment.”
Even though Saintville does not know the name of the Marine who helped him, the sailor who treated him, or their respective units, he does know his life was changed that day and hopes he can someday be a person who helps others in their time of need.
“I’m trying to thank them for helping me after the earthquake,” Saintville said. “(Because) being able to help each other, protect each other, and watch each other’s back (is) what the Marine Corps has taught me.”
Date Posted:07.12.2012 03:16
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