Marine Corps Sgt. Jose Guadarramapedraza, left, and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jason Constable pose for a photo at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, May 16, 2012. They earned their U.S. citizenship before deploying. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Lamberth)
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (May 24, 2012) — Two Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 reached a turning point in their lives before deploying to Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Jason Constable, a watch officer and combat engineer, and Sgt. Jose Guadarramapedraza, an administration specialist, are now citizens of the United States.
“I’ve always felt like I was an American,” said Constable, a native of New Zealand.
Constable said he came to the United States in 1985 and completed his sophomore year in high school after having stayed in the country for four years. He returned in 1991 and became a security guard at a hospital in Phoenix before joining the Marine Corps in 1993.
“My father wanted me to join the French Foreign Legion,” he said. Instead, Constable sought his friends’ opinions on what the hardest option would be to serve in the U.S. military. His friends told him it was the Marine Corps.
Constable enlisted in 1993 and left the Corps when his enlistment ended four years later.
“I lived a pretty uneventful seven years after that,” he said. “After I got out, it just wasn’t the same.”
Constable said he missed the camaraderie and his sense of belonging and having a purpose in life. After the 9/11 attacks, he said, he felt a resurgence in patriotism and re-enlisted in 2004. In 2005, he deployed to Iraq, where he earned a Purple Heart after being injured when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.
Constable said he wanted to earn his citizenship, and he also needed it to perform his duties. “I started needing clearances that I couldn’t get because I wasn’t a citizen,” he explained. He took his citizenship oath hours before he deployed to Afghanistan.
Guadarramapedraza migrated to Idaho from central Mexico with his family of 11. He grew up in Mountain Home and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004. He said he had permanent residency before he joined, but that not being a citizen began to hamper his ability to carry out day-to-day activities at work.
“I can do my job easier and not have headaches from having to renew my green card and not be able to do certain tasks with my job,” he said. “It’s a huge relief.”
Guadarramapedraza said gaining his citizenship has opened new avenues for him at work. As an administrative specialist, he ensures squadron personnel are paid their entitlements and receive their awards. The new clearances allow him to access secure networks while he’s deployed.
“I felt proud,” he said. “It was the right thing to do for my family and the Marine Corps. In order to do my job and be proficient and support my Marines, I needed my citizenship,” he said.