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Boy who walked from Guatemala now US soldier

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:51 pm    Post subject: Boy who walked from Guatemala now US soldier Reply with quote

Boy who walked from Guatemala now US soldier

SHREVEPORT, La. (WTW) In nine years, U.S. Army E-4 Spec. Esvin Moratoya, 21, went from living on the streets of Guastatoya, Guatamela, to becoming an American citizen and U.S. soldier.

It was an unusual journey.

At 12, with no map in hand but looking for a better life, he walked 1,800 miles alone from Guatemela to the Mexican-United States border at Nuevo Laredo, Texas. He dodged the U.S. Border Patrol to swim the Rio Grande, clawed his way up a steep incline and stepped on American soil illegally.

A month later, Morataya was living with a cousin in Shreveport, who eventually received custody of him and helped him obtain legal status from a court.

Now 21, he is an American citizen. And U.S. Army E-4 Spc. Esvin Moratoya, an infantry soldier in Afghanistan.

Morataya's story began when he left Guastatoya, where he slept in a park, scavenged for apples to eat and swam in the river to wash his clothes. With the equivalent of $1.75 in his pocket, he walked north with the sun as his guide through Mexico to the United States.

To traverse three countries, Morataya traveled along jungle interiors, alongside railroad tracks, over mountains and down dirt and gravel roads, across rivers and through one of the world's largest cities.

A month after swimming the Rio Grande, he was picked up by the Border Patrol. Eventually he came to live in southwest Shreveport with his cousin, nurse anesthetist Miriam LaCaze, a naturalized citizen, and her husband, Kirby.

And, in the manner of many teenagers and their guardians, there were difficult times.

Morataya's revolved around his desire to work when he was only 12, responding to chore duties, hoarding food so he would not be hungry, chafing at rules and learning manners.

However, Morataya not only holds a street kid's savvy background, but he is smart. At Ridgewood Middle School and Byrd High School, he learned English, mastered computers and made A's and B's in English and math.

And dated several school friends with all the fun and sometimes hurt that entails.

And developed impeccable manners.

After high school graduation in 2009, Moratoya attended Bossier Parish Community College.

In February 2010, he entered the U.S. Army, figuring it would be constructive for him and a way to increase income for college. He entered as a private and has been promoted three times.

Along the way and almost overnight, he took the oath in Anchorage, Alaska, to become a naturalized citizen so he could get a security clearance.

He was deployed to Afghanistan via basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and more training in Alaska and California.

He talked about the Army life, over lunch at Zocolo's and in the LaCazes' comfortable southwest Shreveport home.

And scrolled through his laptop to show Afghanistan.

There is Morataya in his camouflage uniform, on duty on an Afghanistan mountain filled with caves, holding his M-4 rifle, smiling in the field, receiving a promotion and clowning around with pals.

Expounding on the military work, he talked about soldiers' efforts to meet the natives, gain their trust and glean information about the Taliban.

"Some will tell us where they are and tell us everything and others ignore us. Some are neutral," he said.

He answers questions about the battles, about being shot at, about confronting Taliban members.

And the deaths.

About the bracelet he wears always on his right arm to remember Pfc. Ryan Larsen, killed at 2 a.m. when a truck he was driving hit a roadside bomb.

"We hung out together. Went to movies. Lived in the same place. All of us were pretty hurt," Morataya said.

And about close pal Calvin Pereda, a wrestling champion in his weight range, who was killed, and the lieutenant supervisor, who lost both his legs in an explosion and recuperates in Germany.

"We were good friends. We went everywhere together shopped, the movies, eat," remembered Morataya of Pereda.

And how he handles it. "If you let it (the deaths) get in your way, someone else will get killed," Morataya said.

"The Army counsels us, briefs us on those who are injured. We have memorials for all of them," he said.

Dressed in blue jeans, a T-shirt and Adidas shoes and sporting spiked hair while home on leave, he was sitting in the comfort and warmth of his cousin's lovely breakfast area adjacent to the kitchen.

But a few days later, he left once again for the killing fields of Afghanistan. Morataya has two more years to serve.

What then?

He is considering West Point and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, at Daytona Beach, Fla.

If West Point, he will major in computer science, in which he already excels, or aerodynamics.

At Ambry-Riddle, aeronautical engineering.

Morataya is articulate, wastes few words and speaks very good English, which is combined with the lilting rhythmic accents of his native tongue.

He is witty in a deadpan manner and always very polite, filling his conversations with "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am."

"I'm very proud of him and the wonderful young man he has become," said LaCaze, who had no previous experience with raising children when he came into her home and, at one time, almost gave up on Morataya.

Today, she is proud of his strength forged through all he has been through.

"He has no fear," she added.

And, oh, yes, "He looks so handsome in his uniform."|
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