By AIR FORCE TECH. SGT. RYAN CAMPBELL
158th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The National Guard is proud of its diversity, bringing people together from a wide variety of backgrounds and giving them the chance to do things and see places they may have never thought they would.
The Capitol Response mission in Washington D.C. has been emblematic of the diversity of the Guard, with countless backgrounds represented in the more than 26,000 National Guardsmen that were on duty at the missions peak.
Spc. Marisol Gameros, who was assigned to the Vermont National Guard at the Naval Observatory in D.C., was the first person in her family born in the United States. She returned with her family to Mexico six months after being born, to Tuxpan, Mayarit, the same town her parents had initially left.
“It is a seaside village, a really big fisherman village,” said Gameros who is an avionics mechanic assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard based in Cape Cod. “They grew up there, they met in the same town, and I grew up in the same area.”
Facing some turmoil in their hometown, Gameros explained that her parents made the decision to leave for the United States. Having two children already, they entered the U.S. undocumented with Gameros being born shortly after in Turlock, California, she said.
She admits however, that she didn’t always look on this too fondly when talking about how it felt to have been the first of her family born in the U.S.
“Resentment, believe it or not,” said Gameros. “I think the only reason that’s the case is because I’ve always been an outsider with my family. Nobody in my family looks like me at all.”
Her taller height, brown hair, green eyes and lighter skin, she said, is in contrast to the rest of her family who are all shorter than her with black hair, brown eyes and darker skin.
“So when it comes to being the only one born in America, there’s a lot of discrimination that goes on in Mexico within our own cultures,” said Gameros. “And so the resentment kind of grew from that as opposed to having been born in America. It was more about treatment.”
Growing up in Mexico, whereas raising a family usually heavily involves the community and extended family, her mother took a different approach.
“We were kind of separated and taught more of an American lifestyle with the immediate family,” said Gameros, “Try to be good; this is what you should aspire to be; this is what you shouldn’t aspire to be.”
There was an emphasis on studying, learning how to use computers, dressing appropriately and always looking professional, Gameros explained. Her parents wanted her to have choices in life as opposed to a life of hard work and manual labor that they experienced.
“My mother would never let us have our hair down because it was unprofessional,” said Gameros. “She wanted to start us off young because she said if we look the part and act the part and speak the part, we will be able to get an office job.”
The future as she saw it, was to always stay in Mexico.
“I didn’t even know I was born in America until I was like 6 years old,” said Gameros.
Growing up she said, her nickname was a slang term “guera” which meant “white girl.”
“What happened was I always got made fun of because I was white, because I had green eyes and whatever it may be.”
By time she was 9, she would find herself on a plane ride alone back to America.
“I tried asking about that (the flight to the U.S.) and nobody really gave me straightforward answers,” said Gameros. “As I knew, there was somebody sitting beside me but I also knew that I didn’t know them.”
Not a lot of explanation was given for returning to America, she continued.
“All I got was that we came seeking asylum for whatever reason,” said Gameros. “The most I know was that my mom's life was in danger.”
Continuing the next chapter of her life in Newman, California, she eventually began applying to colleges and was accepted to Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. Though this happened after she had made an even bigger life decision.
“I enlisted when I was 17 and a half, which was the (earliest) day that they let me,” said Gameros. “I wanted to give back to the country that had given my family absolutely everything.”
Looking up to the military and aviation as a child, she signed up in 2014 to be an avionics mechanic for helicopters in the California Army National Guard on a spur-of-the-moment decision.
She explained it to her mother as though she was applying to a school that would give her the opportunity to train and do a job and be paid for it.
One particular day, she said someone from the “school” was going to show up, which is when she admitted to her mother that she joined the Army.
“She flipped out because she said people are sent to the Army to die,” said Gameros.
Misconceptions about service were quickly put to rest, and the following year Gameros graduated basic training and advanced individual training.
In 2017, she deployed with the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment of the California Army National Guard, spending nine months in Kuwait and Iraq.
Coming home in 2018, she made the decision to leave California for Massachusetts and join their Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment. Though there are always thoughts of Mexico, she said.
“I’ve always dreamed of going back,” said Gameros. “There’s a lot of childhood memories, the warmth, the warm ocean, the sand, the way people talk, the authentic food.”
She has never denied the fact she is Mexican-American, despite treatment she has received at times.
“It’s one of those situations where you’re not Mexican enough in Mexico, you’re not American enough in America,” she said. “But the more I learned English and the more proficient I got with it, people here stopped caring.”
That still left her with other obstacles she explained.
“Some people have gotten really angry at me,” said Gameros. “Are you an American or are you Mexican?”
She proudly says that she is American, just as proudly as she says she is Mexican-American. Some have told her she can’t be both, to which she simply replies, “Yes you can.”
“Ultimately, America is built on diversity,” said Gameros. “And I think that is a very important thing.”