Captain Juan Valencia the Missouri National Guard has been serving in the United States armed forces for almost 20 years.
He came to the United States from Columbia at age 22 and lived in Florida where he decided to make something of his life, that's when he joined the United States Marines.
"I wanted to do more. I wanted a bigger challenge. I wanted to serve. They give you all this discipline and foundations that help you for the rest of your life," Valencia said.
During his four years in the Marines, Valencia fought in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. After coming back to the United States, he applied and became a U.S. citizen.
Valencia went to college at the University of North Carolina where he got his Bachelor??s and then got his Master??s and PhD from Florida State University in Latin America Literature and Creative Writing.
After getting married and having a family, Captain Valencia moved to Kirksville in 2000 to teach Spanish at Truman State University. He joined the Missouri National Guard and was deployed to Iraq for one year after the events of September 11, 2001. He said it was the right thing to do.
??I still had that need to be part of a group, to be part of an organization of professionals. My need to serve was still there," Valencia said.
Now Captain Valencia continues to teach at Truman and does humanitarian missions with the guard across Central and South America in countries such as Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, and Columbia to help better the lives of others such as building better hospitals and schools.
Captain Valencia said it??s been a humbling experience.
??It's just a good feeling all around,?? Valencia said. ??All the soldiers, they have a really good sense of accomplishment that they did something good."
But the most important thing Captain Valencia has learned throughout his 20 years of service is that he is proud to be an American and to serve this great nation that we call home.
"There are many options, opportunities, and possibilities for somebody to do better. They have a chance in this country,?? Valencia said. ??If you really want something, move up and go for it?|work hard, get an education, and do the right things."
Captain Valencia is planning now to move with his family to Panama for one year to continue his humanitarian work with the National Guard.
He said it??s the continuing love and support of his wife, children, parents, and his extended family that helps keep him going.
You can see his whole interview with Captain Valencia here.