DARWIN, Australia - The Marine Corps is a steep challenge for any who accept it, but some Marines have to overcome obstacles that are as simple as speaking for the majority. Sgt. Evens Charles, postal chief with the Forward Coordination Element, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, came to the Corps with English as his third language and came to Australia with more than a handful of cultures to offer.
Born in Orange, New Jersey, Charles shortly moved to French-Guiana where his grandmother raised him until he was 7-years-old to allow his mother time to establish an easier life for her family in the United States.
“Things are a lot different in French-Guiana,” Charles said. “I had to walk to school every day compared to the U.S. where I had a ride every day. I think you grow up faster in French-Guiana because you’re more independent there.”
His grandmother was one of his biggest influences in his life, Charles said. Growing up with her so young, he found himself forgetting she was his grandmother.
“My grandmother is very nurturing,” he said. “I actually thought she was my mother. When I finally went back to the States and met my mother, it was an eye-opener for me.”
While living abroad, Charles learned French and Haitian Creole, two common languages in the household. Learning two languages was a benefit but created a barrier as a first-generation American.
He moved to New York after returning to America and remained fluent in both languages. While living in a mostly Haitian neighborhood, he began his studies at a bilingual school to learn English.
“When I first started bilingual school, it was very hard.” Charles said. “I was segregated from everybody. I fell behind and was playing the catch up game, but after a while I was put back into the general population and had to learn on my own.”
Although the road wasn’t easy, he knew that his education could make his goals attainable. He said education is also just part of his culture.
“We’re very big on school and getting an education, because we have a very unfortunate country so education is a big factor in the Haitian community,” he said.
The violence in New York weighed in on Charles’ decisions about his future. He said if he stayed, there were a number of negative possibilities that could have occurred.
“My decision to join the Marine Corps was because of the area I was in at the time,” he said. “There was a lot of gang violence and killing. I didn’t want to be around that anymore, so joining the Marine Corps was the biggest thing I had to do and the best thing I did for myself.”
Above all, when he thinks of home, it’s America, Charles said. Since joining the Corps, Charles has lived in Japan, twice, North Carolina and served a deployment to Iraq before finding himself in Australia.
Lance Cpl. Misael Camachoperez, a postal clerk with the FCE, MRF-D, said Charles is the best person to spend his first deployment with for more than a few reasons.
“We actually relate a lot. I came to the United States at 7-years-old as well and grew up with my grandmother, who I thought was my mother,” Camachoperez laughed. “Our similarities help us work together and established a productive noncommissioned officer-to-junior Marine relationship.”
English is Camachoperez’s second language, and he is no stranger to bilingual school or having to catch up with peers.
“Joining the Marine Corps with English as your second or third language is very difficult, especially during your ASVAB tests, being able to communicate with other Marines, and customers that I interact with in my job,” he said.
Although respect is a given in the Marine Corps, having a senior noncommissioned officer that understands his junior Marines’ trials and tribulations develops a deeper bond of brotherhood.
“I have respect for Sgt. Charles in general, but knowing that we have similar backgrounds has strengthened that bond and makes our productivity at work that much better.”
The Australian way of life is camaraderie both in their military and civilian population, something both Marines respond well to.
“Their brotherhood and everything that they stand for, as far as unit cohesion, is very similar to the Marines,” Charles said. “They treat each other like brothers and sisters like we do. I was quickly able to join along with their forces, and it made me feel like I was at home.”
Both Marines respect seeing new cultures and offer their own, but Darwin has offered more than they thought they’d ever see.
“Going to the Crocodile River Boat Cruise, I was able to see the wildlife professionals feed the crocodiles while they were jumping out of the water, something I thought I’d never see in a million years,” Charles said.
Camachoperez and Charles rely on one another as the only two Marines in their job field attached to MRF-D. Their backgrounds have only increased their ability to work with each other.
“As the only two postal clerks in MRF-D, we are very busy and work in a stressful environment,” Camachoperez said. “The professional relationship that we have allows us to quickly accomplish tasks since I already know his expectations and personality.”
Camachoperez says he hopes he is just a younger version of Charles and has the privilege to see as many cultures as he has while offering his own. Charles thanks the Marine Corps for constantly offering the opportunity to share his experiences around the world.
“I’m excited to share my culture with the rest of the Marine Corps,” he said. “I tell the Marines under me where I come from, what I’ve done, and they embrace it and share where they’ve come. We get to see and learn from other people and that’s what makes the Marine Corps the best.”