News: Father watches son’s Young Marine graduation from Afghanistan
Story by Lance Cpl. Sullivan Laramie
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - As the command was given, 17 of the newest Young Marines dressed in their camouflage utility uniforms formed up and marched out in front of their families here, June 1.
Many of the graduates’ family members were present during the ceremony. However, not everyone who wanted to see the graduation could be here.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Socorro Hernandez, a logistics mobility chief with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, was able to witness his son Derik Hernandez, a Young Marine private, graduate through a live video connection from Afghanistan.
Derik, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, completed the program’s training course with his class, which took place over the course of six Saturdays in April and May.
“[Socorro] really wanted to be here with Derik to keep him going and keep him motivated,” said Nancy Hernandez, Derik’s mother. “It was important that we were both here for the graduation. [Socorro] was very proud that Derik chose to join the [Young Marines], he was very happy that he could be part of the ceremony even though he couldn’t physically be here.”
The program gives Derik an opportunity to interact with children who share his interests. The Young Marines program requires determination and self motivation to complete the course and continue as a Young Marine.
“I was very glad [Socorro] was able to connect to the graduation,” said Nancy. “He’s very proud that his son could begin following in his footsteps. It’s Derik’s ultimate dream to be a Marine just like his dad.”
Volunteers in the Young Marines program get to experience land navigation, physical training, first-aid and field exercises throughout their itinerary.
“[The Young Marines program] is fun, and we learn about discipline, leadership and teamwork,” said Derik. “I feel great knowing that I didn’t give up. That’s what the Young Marines is about – we don’t back down, we go until the end.”
“The point the program is to teach and inspire kids to live a healthy, drug-free life,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Reginald L. Wallace, the commander of the graduating class. “I want them to continue to strive, get stronger and be better role models for the other kids around them. The program just tries to create productive citizens of America.”