Joel Ortega Joins Marines to Live Out Childhood Dream


Emma Zankoul, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

“I was always very drawn to military type things from toys and movies since I was little,” said Joel Ortega, NDA senior who is joining the Marines after graduation.

Ortega knew he wanted to join the Marines since fourth grade, as he was always very interested in that type of thing. 

“Even when I was younger, my parents had a feeling I would try to do something with the military in the future,” he said.

Although his parents were very scared for their only child to have this experience at first, they knew it was what he truly wanted and grew into supporting the decision.

“Anyone who decides to do this type of thing will obviously be nervous,” said the senior while admitting he too was scared. But despite his initial concerns, Ortega still decided to join because he was so inspired.

He said that his inspiration wasn’t really any person in particular, but the movie Full Metal Jacket. It is only after watching this film that he was convinced the Marines was where he wanted to be.

“Whenever I felt down or would second guess joining, I would watch that movie again to be pushed to continue.”

Even though Ortega has questioned his decision before, he was deep down always determined to become a Marine.

“Joel’s the kind of person that follows through on what he wants once his mind is made up about it,” said his journalism teacher Carolyn Brown. “I’ve seen him do that in the classroom.”

“My foster son is a Marine, did it for 20 years,” continued Brown. “Rex gained skills that not only made him a leader but also very marketable in the business world.  Now he is vice president of a company in Louisiana.  I told him about Joel, and he emailed him about being a Marine.  Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Ortega started training for the Marines last summer before his senior year. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he goes down to the armed forces to get his physical training exercise done. 

It was really “harsh and grueling” at first, but he has improved so much, and that gave him the confidence to surpass his fears.

“I achieved physical abilities that I never expected to, even mentally ones, with a new confident mindset.”

Ortega said the hardest part is the process and training of becoming a Marine and being away from family. But once he achieves that, he is very excited for the experience, as well as earning the title of being a Marine.

Afterwards, the senior doesn’t really know what he wants to do later in life. He is planning on for sure doing four years in the Marines and maybe six if he really likes it.

“I might work some type of job I could earn from going to college during my time in service,” he said, “but my goal is just to live happily knowing i accomplished my childhood dream.”