Being resilient is a key ingredient in my life.
Looking back on all the obstacles and challenges I faced, one word that has been a constant reminder to keep pushing forward is: resilient. I come from very humble beginnings and to make it to this point in life is a blessing. Growing up in a small town and facing daily challenges of racism and inequality was a constant reminder that being Native in America is not easy. I used that negative energy to fuel me as I fought to survive as a teenager. Becoming a father at a young age further motivated me. I was fueled by my wife and son, who looked at me to be the husband and father they could count on for support and guidance.
Following a childhood dream, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Growing up, I admired the Navajo Code Talkers and wanted to follow in their footsteps. Leaving my family behind to chase a dream was not easy however the sacrifice was necessary in order to achieve something better for my family. The Marine Corps played a tremendous part in teaching me life lessons, creating life lasting bonds with a few men and being guided by father figures who truly cared about me and my family. After the Marine Corps, I proceeded to chase another dream of mine: to use my artistic abilities professionally. I went back to college while working a few part-time jobs and coaching soccer and basketball for my son. Those times were some of the best and most trying times because while I truly enjoyed being with my son and coaching, it was financially difficult. Yet in the end, I managed to earn two college degrees and graduated with honors from both schools.
Then and now, when difficult situations and times arise, I often think of my ancestors, family, friends and fellow Marines who are no longer here with us. I often think, “what would they say or tell me?" In Navajo, I could and can hear my ancestors continually telling me: ha’ólní, yéigo ííníłta’ (be patient, go harder)! I hear my friends and fellow Marines telling me to suck it up and keep pushing forward.
That is why this hat is more than a just a hat to me. This is what being #resilient means to me.
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