QUEZALTEPEQUE, El Salvador (NNS) -- A Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28 Det. Gold Seabee met extended family in El Salvador for the first time, April 30, while participating in Operation Beyond the Horizon 2011.
Steelworker 3rd Class (SW3) Jack Marroquin and 20 other NMCB 28 Seabees traveled to El Salvador to participate in a project involving construction of an auditorium for an elementary school in Tepetitan with El Salvadorian engineers as part of the operation.
Marroquin was born in the United States to El Salvadorian immigrants and has had little contact with his extended family in El Salvador. He said he was ecstatic when he learned he would be part of the mission.
"I know I'm doing a good thing for good, hardworking people in the country my parents came from," said Marroquin. "Since we hopped on the plane my happiness has been visible and my feet have been itching to stand in El Salvador."
Marroquin, who is providing welding and construction skills to the mission, lost his father during a work-related accident in February 2003. He met his paternal grandfather, Ignacio Garcia, for the first time when he visited the U.S. to attend the funeral. Marroquin said he was touched and fascinated by the stories his grandfather told him, and he began to long to visit the places in the stories, and see for himself where his family had come from.
"My mom, Melva Garcia, was born in a place called La Union while my dad, Serafin Marroquin, was born here in Quezaltepeque," said Marroquin. "My mom left for the U.S. in the eighties due to the civil war going on at the time. My mom has always been caring and hardworking, and my dad was responsible and family oriented. They gave me my values and pride in being Salvadorian."
Shortly after arriving to El Salvador, Marroquin was introduced to a an El Salvadorian army general. He shared his story and the general who was taken with the idea that Marroquin should visit his father's hometown.
Arrangements were made and the trip was approved by NMCB 28. Soon after, Marroquin and a fellow Seabee arrived to a waiting crowd of twenty nieces, nephews, cousins, and aunts, ready to hug, talk, and in family tradition, eat.
"Delicious home-cooked eggs, beans, cheese, tortillas, chicken, rice, salad, snacks... then to top it off, they celebrated my birthday all over again with a huge cake and a local birthday song," said Marroquin. "It felt just like home. There were absolutely no quiet moments in the loving and humble atmosphere."
Marroquin said there were some emotional moments, and he feels this experience has changed him.
"We shared laughs, jokes, family moments, and even some tears, said Marroquin. "It was mostly joy and happiness remembering my father's great life. Even when I called my mom on the phone, she noticed I sound different; extremely happy. My stay in El Salvador has been better than I can ever explain.
"I've made lots of friends, seen a lot of happy children's faces, and created a lot of memories I will cherish forever. I'm very proud of the work we are doing here as well. It's great to be part of a humanitarian project in such a deserving location," said Marroquin.
Beyond the Horizon 2011 is a U.S. Southern Command humanitarian and civic assistance program providing medical and engineering support in Latin and South America, and the Caribbean.
For more news from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28, visit www.navy.mil/local/nmcb28/.