View Full Version : Recruiter leaves troubled life to help those headed for trouble

05-14-04, 07:39 AM
Recruiter leaves troubled life to help those headed for trouble
Submitted by: 6th Marine Corps District
Story Identification #: 200451113223
Story by Sgt.

6TH MARINE CORPS DISTRICT(May 10, 2004) -- Growing up in the mean streets of Miami often leaves teens with few options. Add on a lackadaisical approach to school and an utter disrespect for public law and the result is an almost certain trip to a juvenile correctional facility.

For one recruiter assigned to Permanent Contact Station Marion, N.C., a life behind bars could have very well been a reality if it had not been for a Marine recruiter.

Staff Sgt. Sean Flores grew up in an inner city Miami neighborhood with a reputation for heavy gang violence and crime. Flores fit right in, that is, until a Marine recruiter in dress blues confronted him outside a fast food restaurant and ripped him from his life of fighting and getting into trouble.

"When are you going to be a Marine," the recruiter asked.
With no apparent reaction to the question, the recruiter decided to push Flores one step further.

"Are you scared?"

Normally, asking any young teen on the streets that same question would have sparked a sure fight, but something about the Marine sparked Flores' interests.

"He was about 6-foot, two-inches and 240 pounds and all I could think about was hitting him," said Flores.

Instead, the two sat down and began to map out a plan to change his life.

"When the recruiter told me I would be dead in a year if I kept up my lifestyle, that really got me thinking," said Flores.

The next day, the young and cocky Flores was standing in the office of his recruiter, ready to make the commitment to change his life.

Taking the first step, Flores set out to prepare himself for life in the Marines. The first step was graduating high school, and he was already in his fifth year.

"Up until then, high school really wasn't that big a deal for me," he said. "After all, by the time I had graduated, I had been nominated most funny twice and was even crowned prom king my second senior year."

Three days after graduation, Flores found himself at boot camp. Three months later, he found himself in the Corps.

Through his deployments and duty stations, Flores saw first-hand what it's like to have it rough.

"When you see an 11-year-old boy and you find out that he's the bread-winner for his family, it changes the way you look at your own life. Three tours in Kosovo can change the way you look at anything."

It was an eye-opening experience that often had Flores reflecting on his former life. He realized that in some small way, that Marine recruiter had saved him from becoming a statistic. Flores was then determined to do the same for someone else.

Nowadays, Flores and his wife of five years, Tiffany, live in Nebo, N.C., far away from the troubled streets where Flores grew up. However, Flores has not forgotten where he came from and what could have happened to him had he stayed there.

"It helps drive me these days," he said. "When I talk to troubled teens, I feel like I owe it to them to give them the same opportunity I was given."

Flores knows he can joke about his high school life openly with whomever he talks. He is not shy about confessing his former life. Instead, he uses it to relate to the young men and women he talks to every day.

"I think it's more important to relate to a kid than to just talk at him," Flores said.
"Letting him or her know that you know where he comes from goes a long way."

Since hitting the streets of Marion in February, Flores has wasted no time in becoming a noticeable member of the community.

Besides visiting and talking to the kids in the schools, Flores spends his free time giving talks to battered women's groups, teaching self-defense classes and whenever possible, playing a little basketball with the younger kids at the local YMCA.

"It's a lot to balance, but it's definitely worth it," he said.

Individuals with Flores level of community dedication and involvement are often labeled as, "people who want to make a difference in at least one kid's life," but Flores is quick to distance himself from that stereotype.

"I don't want to make a difference in one kid's life, I want to make a difference in all their lives. Why stop at just one?"


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