Janick O. Sánchez Díaz

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“I feel very happy being back with my family, because it had been such a long time.  That is why I knew I had to come back alive.”

The year was 1977 and as soon as he graduates from high school in Rio Piedras, my uncle, Mario Díaz, had his mind-set on going to College to study Physical Education and eventually become a teacher.  However his long time dream had to be put aside to generate some extra income for his family (mother and sister) because his father had abandoned them. Since the rent was too high for his mother to pay and his sister was going soon to College, the solution to that situation was to enlist in the United States Army.

Though he was serving another nation for a good, noble and justified reason, it wasn’t always as good as the commercials showed on TV.  “They don’t tell you about solitude, hunger, disrespect, being away from your loved ones and fear of death. They only told us about the money we were going to make and their so-called benefits,” he tells me.



Change in the facial expression of a young man with a bright future.  The Army completely changes your life.

Those things messed with his mind and at times he thought about taking own his life just to avoid receiving a dishonorable discharge on his record.



“Chills crawl up my spine by just remembering those horrible ideas that at times took over my head,” he adds.

Eventually he set his thoughts straight and kept focused on his main and only goal, improving the lifestyle of his family back in Puerto Rico.  Among the things that kept him sane were the letters that he received from his family and visiting the nearest Baptist church because he was a firm Christian believer. Faith in God was something very important for my uncle Mario.

“I also met a group of Puerto Ricans who were the only ones that were recruited in my same company. We even started our own Baseball team and we took the competition to the gringos.  Of course I also admit that I used to fool around with guns at hand with some of my friends.”




“Thank you mom and Mini for writing to me at all times, you were the only ones who supported me.”

“As a soldier I traveled the world.  I went to Hawaii, Australia, Japan, China, Korea and Iraq.”

Fooling around...

Fooling around…


Though he spent an infinite amount of time on foreign lands, that time wasn’t spent looking at the butterflies that flew by; most of the time it was spent on training and spec ops mission.  “No, I cannot tell you what did those special operations consisted of, because the information is classified.”


Uncle at the Pearl Harbor Monument

There was barely time to enjoy the view since he had to be alert at all times; he literally needed to have eyes behind his back because an alarm could sound at any moment.



Receiving his promotion


”This is me in a promotion ceremony in Hawaii receiving my Sargent Major’s  badge.”

Throughout the years he was involved in countless secret missions and a couple of battles where he risked his life, but still managed to do a great job.  “I remember earning many badges and moving up the military ranks and a handful of years later I became a Sergent Major.”




Even though he had reached a high rank, he still felt that something was missing; he needed to have a squad of his own


As a Drill Sergent

to boss around. That is why he took the test to become a Drill Sergent.  “Now all the things that they did to me as a private, I will do to those newcomers (laughing), but of course I’ll always be there for my men when they need me. If I have to put my life on the line in order to save one of them, I will gladly do it because I know that they would do the same for me.”  That is what he calls true respect.

The last war he was involved with was Conflict: Dessert Storm in Iraq during th early 90s.  “That was a war filled with mixed emotions.





Taken from a Korean newspaper during transportation of live ammo during the war

At one hand, I thought that I was doing the country that had adopted me a great favor, but at what cost?  I had to feel the pain of loosing a few comrades.  I had to deal with shocking things at all times like guts pouring out of a soldier’s body and becoming partially deaf due to the extremely loud noises of ammo being fired by machine guns and tanks.”

Now, thirty-four years after signing with the Armed Forces, Mario is living the life of an everyday civilian.  He now receives a great amount of money from the USA Government, but works as a security guard at the Bella Vista Hospital in Mayaguez to keep himself busy.  I asked my uncle, Mario, if it was all worth it and if he had a chance to go back to the Army, would he take it.




Mario and his men in Iraq

Mario and his men in Iraq

“Yes it was worth it.  Knowing that your mother didn’t take for granted the economic help that I gave her makes me feel appreciated.  Although, I gave up my dream, I can’t say that it was all bad because I still have a lot of great memories.  Ohh, I almost forgot… if I was to be asked if I want to go back… HELL YEAH!!!  Of course I would.”








Foto taken in 2008 during my stepdad’s graduation.  Uncle Mario – left.


Janick Sanchez is a 24 year old life long martial artist, an Independent Team Beachbody Coach while also being 2012 Biology graduate from Antillian Adventist University at Mayaguez, PR. He wishes to start Law School with the hopes of delivering fair and equal justice to those with very few resources. He also wants to become a certified personal trainer one day to help other achieve their overall fitness goal.


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