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He was born in Caracas, in the Magallanes de Catia, one of the poorest neighborhoods of the Venezuelan capital; but thanks to his spirit of self-improvement and the values instilled in him by his family, today he is a Marine serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In 2004, at the age of 19, David Mantilla decided to emigrate to fulfill his “American dream.” With a permanent visa, with which he managed to reach Miami, Mantilla began a new life that allowed him from a distance to economically support his family. After years of hard work and sacrifices that led him to fight in Afghanistan, he now works at a military base in Washington, is a Sergeant at Arms and reached 16,190 followers on Instagram inspiring others to fulfill their dreams.
In an exclusive interview for El American, David proudly states that wearing the Marine uniform is the best thing he could have ever “done in life.”
“The United States gave me many opportunities and I consider that putting on the Marine uniform is the best thing I have done in my life to honor and be grateful for everything this country has offered me. Being a Marine fills me with pride, it makes my chest swell when I say it. For me it is an honor to belong to the best Armed Forces in the world,” he says proudly.
The Venezuelan Marine, who today dedicates his days to protecting Americans, humbly criticized the way in which the Biden administration withdrew troops from Afghanistan and showed his frustration because the death of the 13 American soldiers, victims of a terrorist attack in the vicinity of the Kabul airport, was not avenged.
“I come from a very humble family, with very few economic resources, who taught me hard work. I am here where I am because of what they instilled in me. For me the decision to emigrate was not difficult, because in my house sometimes there was nothing to eat, Hugo Chavez was already in power and I did not want that life for me,” he says.
Mantilla recalls that when he arrived in Miami he was “very impressed” because he arrived in an organized country, much more advanced than Venezuela.
“I had never traveled before and I ended up arriving in Miami. I was very impressed leaving Catia and arriving in the United States. I saw 6-lane roads and the city was clean. I stayed in Miami for about a year living with my cousins who took me in,” he says.
During his stay in Miami, David worked in construction, also cleaning toilets and washing dishes, as well as fixing air conditioners; but not feeling that he was making progress, he decided to travel to New York to learn English and grow personally.
“I decided to go north to learn and practice English more. I went to New York and there I became more fluent in the language; I also worked shoveling snow, cleaning pools, working in construction, parking vehicles. That’s how I started. There came a time when I felt stagnant and didn’t see any progress, and as soon as I got my papers and my residency, I started the process to join the Marines,” Mantilla adds.
Mantilla made his debut as a Marine in Afghanistan
David recounted that in 2008 he joined the Navy, and after passing the basic course to enter the different branches of the Army, he was sent to California, where he only stayed for 2 months before leaving for Afghanistan.
“It was shocking to know I was going to Afghanistan so early, but I knew what I was getting into. The United States has been a country that is known for its victories in different wars and its military activity in different countries. I knew that at some point they were going to send me to any country,” he says.
“I arrived in Afghanistan in Heldman province, which is in the southern part of the country; our mission there was to clear an area that was full of Taliban and that they were using as a control zone to run other tactical combat zones in the north of Afghanistan. Our job was to get the Taliban out of that area so they wouldn’t have that control,” he says.
David recalls the impact of learning about Afghan culture and realizing that it is a poor country subject to Taliban rules. He participated in many clashes where colleagues lost their lives trying to accomplish their mission.
“I saw many hard things, many losses of comrades, confrontations; it is an experience that helped me a lot to grow as a person, as a Marine and as a leader. I lived through many confrontations, but thank God the training is so complete that we were able to do everything to get home alive,” he added.
“The 2020 troop withdrawal looked messy, it could have been better”
The American took the opportunity to ask Mantilla about his perspective on the withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan led by the Democratic administration of Joe Biden. The Marine says the troop withdrawal could have been “better planned” so that no lives were lost and no American civilians were stranded in that country.
“It’s tough to know that a mission that cost so much has been retaken again by Taliban. It shocks, depresses and makes you feel a little bad because it makes us think that what we did was in vain,” Mantilla says.
“But it’s also about time that all the Americans are with their families and back home. It’s something that exhausts you. In the year I was there, I lost track of time and I was practically not in contact with my family,” he adds.
“The withdrawal of troops was disorganized. I was very upset by the death of the military members, most of them were marines, and I was even more upset by the fact that those lives were lost and nothing was done. I would have liked, as a member of the military, to find those people who did the bombing and make them pay. You know that the job as a Marine is dangerous, but I was surprised that there was no immediate response to that terrorist attack,” Mantilla says.
“I think the withdrawal of the troops could have been better planned so that no Americans were left stranded. But at the same time, I have no say, I don’t have the hierarchy to say how it should have been done and I understand that it wasn’t an easy task either. I think that if it had been in my hands, I would have organized things better so as not to rush things and get everyone out; from the Americans to the allies who helped us for a decade with information to find the Taliban,” he adds.
“The border crisis worries me”
Mantilla, who works in the protection of a military base in Washington D.C and being a shooting instructor, was promoted last September 13 to Sergeant at Arms. He assures that as a military man and American citizen he is concerned about the security of the United States in the face of the immigration crisis.
“I, as a military man, am concerned about what is happening at the border. My job is to protect Americans and I know there are a lot of people who are coming in with good intentions, but I know there are also people who are not,” he says.
Mantilla’s story stands out with that of thousands of Hispanics in the United States who, after emigrating, growing up and working, today love the country that welcomed them.
Sabrina Martín Rondon is a Venezuelan journalist. Her source is politics and economics. She is a specialist in corporate communications and is committed to the task of dismantling the supposed benefits of socialism // Sabrina Martín Rondon es periodista venezolana. Su fuente es la política y economía. Es especialista en comunicaciones corporativas y se ha comprometido con la tarea de desmontar las supuestas bondades del socialismo