Tri-County Success Story: Miguel Franco
If the success of Tri-County’s scholarship recipients is measured by hard work, courage in the face of adversity, devotion to family, and academic skill, Miguel Franco – a TCSF recipient from 1999 until 2003 – is an example of extraordinary accomplishment.
Miguel has recently returned for a second tour of duty in Iraq as a bulk fielder with the United States Marine Corps. He will supply critical fuel to platoons throughout the country as they engage in security operations.
Miguel says he was always a smart student, but needed the motivation, discipline and direction he received at Paterson Catholic Regional High School to prepare him for his future career. While in high school, he periodically visited his cousin at a local Marine Corps base, which exposed him to life in the armed forces. Inspired by the disciplined environment, camaraderie between soldiers, and the hands-on experience, Miguel decided to enlist in the Marines after graduation.
Always displaying aptitude in the sciences, Miguel reasoned that the Marines would help him develop the skills he needed to become an engineer, as well as provide the discipline and structure missing at most colleges and universities. He took the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (AFVAB) – a required entrance exam – and scored highly.
Miguel rose fast through the ranks of the Marines. Within six months, he was Private First Class, and within seven months he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He attended a specialized school for three months where he became a lab technician responsible for testing fuel to ensure it has the correct mixture of chemicals.
His most valuable lesson as a Marine? “I am learning to take initiative,” Miguel said. “You really get the opportunity to provide leadership in the Marines. Sometimes, you have to step up by yourself and perform tasks that you know need to get done.”
For Miguel, solidarity with other soldiers has been the most positive experience of being in Iraq. “When I got here I didn’t know anybody. But once I came to this base, the whole platoon became best friends,” Miguel remembered. “We bonded, even alone out in the desert, and I know we will stick together regardless of what happens.”
Although the Marines have provided him with a sense of community, Miguel also realizes the sobering reality that the soldiers in Iraq – and he himself – risk injury and even death on a daily basis. However, with spirits high and with firm determination, Miguel has headed back to Iraq.
One might expect that the awaiting dangers would cause hesitation about going back. For Miguel, however, returning to Iraq is a duty to his country, a point of family pride, and a job that is helping him build a future career. “This is what I signed up for. My career is out there. This is our job right now: in Iraq.”
Not expecting to spend a lifetime in the military, Miguel has ambitious and practical plans for the future. After the Marines he wants to work as a contractor in Iraq, applying what he learned in the Corps. When Miguel returns home he plans to attend college through the GI bill. ” just want to live the American Dream,” he said. Tri-County Scholarship Fund is proud of our past scholarship recipient. We are grateful for Miguel’s service to the country, and wish him a safe and speedy return.