News: Changing his life byte by byte
Story by Lance Cpl. Joshua Brown
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – The Department of Defense utilizes a wide array of data systems that are essential to mission accomplishment and enable Marines to conduct successful defense of our nation and its allies. Sgt. Xavier Velez has the responsibility of running many of those systems.
The Terryville, Conn., native is a data systems specialist with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). He’s been in the Marine Corps over three years and loves his occupation, working on computers, systems and their functionality.
Velez said that while he was in college and struggling to balance his school life and personal life he found himself encumbered with the responsibilities of raising a child and attending school. Velez finally opted to join the military to improve his situation. He enlisted in the Marine Corps as a data systems specialist.
Velez expressed his passion for his job with a smile as he described how he tinkered with computers as a child. His brown eyes stared upward as he recalled the event, like he was traveling back to his childhood in his mind.
“I’ve always loved computers,” said Velez. “When I was a kid I used to take them apart and try to figure them out. The thing I love about it is there’s always something new, there’s always a challenge and something to learn.”
He has demonstrated his occupational dedication and experience throughout his deployment with the 26th MEU, his skills and contribution to mission success afforded him recognition in the form of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Sgt. Leonardo Avila, an Ozark, Ala. Native and radio operator with the 26th MEU, is one of Velez’s mentors and closest friends. He was a non-commissioned officer in charge of Velez when Velez first entered the Marine Corps. They have continued their friendship and provide one another support and advice.
Avila said from day one he recognized Velez’s potential because of his maturity, ability to take every responsibility seriously and accomplish tasks efficiently.
“Velez always does what it takes to get the job done,” said Avila. “Marines go to him for help, because they can tell he’s good at what he does.”
Velez is challenged with various tasks that assist in keeping the 26th MEU’s computer and internet capabilities running, which enable completion of various tasks that lead to mission accomplishment.
Avila said, “he works so hard because he supports his son. He loves his son and always puts him first before anything.”
Avila said he and Velez share parenting advice with one another, and he admires Velez’s concern and sacrifice for his son and emulates that with his own children.
“The hard part is I’m not there with him,” said Velez. “He’s back home with his mother in Connecticut, and I wish I could be there for him more often.”
Velez said the face-to-face time he’s had with his son is limited due to Velez’s work schedule, deployment and distance away from his son. This shows the sacrifice Velez makes to be successful in his career, and, in turn, to provide support for his son.
“I’ve only been to one of his birthdays and a couple of holidays, but he knows I love him and he’s starting to understand what I do,” said Velez.
Velez said his son is starting to understand why he is gone and how deployment works, helping ease some of the difficulty of being geographically separated.
“Velez is a good Marine and a really great dad,” said Avila. “He really loves his son and I am really proud of him as a leader. He’s become more than just a friend and fellow Marine, he’s a brother to me, like he’s part of my family, and I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished.”
Velez said he does not intend to reenlist upon completion of his contract with the Marine Corps, and instead pursue further work in the computer and data systems fields. He plans to save the benefits of his GI Bill to pay for his son’s education.
Velez said, “I want my son to be successful, and I want to do what I can to make that happen.”