News: From high school to Afghanistan, these Marines stick together
Story by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Marines describe their relationships with fellow Marines with words like brotherhood and sisterhood. Many view the Corps as a family, with brothers and sisters, mother and father figures. The way Marines take care of each other, look after each other and even bicker with each other is reminiscent of many families in America today.
For Cpl. Francis Collado, Lance Cpls. Kiara Herrera and Ana Nunez, sisterhood is the only way to describe their bond.
Collado, a warehouse clerk with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward), met the sisters, Herrera and Nunez, in high school, 2007. After enlisting in the Marine Corps, they found themselves heading to the same geographical location.
The women, all with different units, were stationed in Southern California. However, within a six-month period, they all would deploy to Helmand province, Afghanistan.
“I was surprised when I found out we’d be deploying (at the same time),” said Nunez, food service specialist, Combat Logistic Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistic Group (Forward). “It made coming here a lot easier.”
Collado said she couldn’t wait for the three of them to meet again in Afghanistan.
They separated ways after recruit training, and again when Herrera deployed in October 2011. Herrera is a maintenance administration clerk with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
Now, every Wednesday afternoon around 2 pm, the women get together. Collado picks Nunez up during their work break, and Herrera from her barracks. They drive over to Collado’s work place and spend time together until Nunez has to return to work.
They spend most their free time hanging out, watching movies, cracking jokes and reading magazines.
“They’re family to me,” added Collado. “Us all being together, it means we’re all (able to) look out for each other.”
Collado describes it as a family barbeque when the three women are together. The jokes and bickering add to the family-like atmosphere.
Out here in Afghanistan it’s no different.
The three women relaxed outside of Herrera’s barracks, trying to find some shade from the mid-afternoon sun. They talked about each other’s day, but soon an argument broke out.
Collado and Herrera stood toe-to-toe, and the discussion turned sour. Nunez tried to calm the situation down at first, but knows this happens.
Collado said she felt Herrera didn’t stand up for her enough the day before.
Then, after each explained their side of the story, it was over. They are back to teasing one another and laughing, talking about their work and friends.
“That’s just how sister are,” said Nunez. “We tell each other how it is, we tell each other when we don’t like something, but we are always going to be there for each other in the end.”
Nunez and Herrera are related by blood and were raised together. Collado met the sisters while the three of them attended Bradford Matthew Chaloner Dufree High School in Fall River, Mass.
“I met (Collado) in Spanish class, I needed a partner and she was smart,” Herrera, said with a grin.
After partnering in Spanish class, the two became inseparable. They did everything together, and when Herrera wanted to talk to a Marine recruiter, Collado was there with her.
“We walked in and they started asking us who we were, where we were from…the basic recruiter questions,” recalls Collado. “I told them I didn’t want to join, I was just here for (Herrera).”
After talking with the recruiters for several months, Collado changed her mind, and her and Herrera decided to enlist.
“Our decision was made, we were going to join the Marine Corps,” said Collado.
Collado went to recruit training May 2009. A year later, Herrera left for boot camp and a couple months after, in September 2010, Nunez arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, too.
Now, the three of them are deployed to Afghanistan. Herrera will be back in the United States in a couple weeks, but right now they are enjoying seeing familiar faces in a foreign country.
“I think deploying with them helps me stay strong,” said Collado. “It’s nice to have someone who knows your family and knows your history…who you can talk to.”
Herrera said she takes comfort in knowing that her little sister, Nunez, will be here with her best friend Collado.
“I know (Collado) will look out for (Nunez),” said Herrera. “My sister won’t be by herself.”
The girls’ families find comfort knowing the three Marines have each other to take care of one another through the stress of a deployment.
“It helps (my family) to know I’m out here with (Collado),” said Nunez. “I know they worry about me, but knowing I have a friend, someone (who) they know helps.”
The women’s conversation has altered again. Still standing outside Herrera’s barracks, they hug. Herrera is returning to California in the next week, and the three of them will be separated again. Their eyes begin to water and they say their goodbyes.
For several weeks the three girls were reunited in Afghanistan. A luxury they all agreed they wouldn’t take for granted.
“I’ll be at both of their home comings,” promised Herrera. “There is no trying to be there—I will be there.”
The three friends have come a long way from Fall River, Mass. They were reunited on the opposite side of the world in Afghanistan and continue to look after each other.
“We’re always going to be there for each other,” said Collado. “We’ll always be sisters no matter how far apart. We know how much we need each other.”
Editor’s Note: The 1st Marine Division (Fwd) works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.