Mark Juarez, a 1997 Moffat County High School graduate, concluded his reserve Marine Corps service Feb. 22. He didn't get much of a break from "the few, the proud, the Marines."
Last week, Juarez again agreed to serve Uncle Sam by becoming Moffat County's Marine Corps liaison officer for the Grand Junction recruiting office. He will serve as a local contact for those entering the service and their families.
His duties also include helping Marines who have left active and reserve duty transition back to civilian life.
Juarez, a former Marine Corps sergeant and veteran of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, said he agreed to serve as liaison as a way to reach out to high school kids lacking direction.
"The biggest part is I'd like to see more kids try to go beyond their boundaries," Juarez said. "I just want to explain to them that there are some opportunities out there."
He also said his renewed service is another way to repay the corps for all it has given him.
"Basically the Marine Corps gave me an opportunity for school and exposure to the world of possibilities that are out there," he said. "It just elevated me to a level there's no way I could have gotten to by myself or by going to college."
Those possibilities through the Marine Corps landed Juarez at the scene of historic events in recent years, and an audience with historical figures.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Juarez and his Marine Corps unit were deployed to New York City to guard the World Trade Center site. He was later sent to help safeguard the White House and the Pentagon.
His Sept. 11 service brought him face-to-face with President George W. Bush and then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He dined with both men and spoke with the president about the Marine Corps' readiness to hunt for the architect of the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden.
Later, Juarez took part in the hunt for bin Laden as part of Operation Mountain Lion.
Juarez left active Marine Corps duty in February 2002. He has been a vocal proponent of U.S. military missions in the Middle East, including the current war in Iraq.
On Thursday, the same day House Democrats proposed legislation that would withdraw combat troops out of Iraq by August 2008, Juarez reaffirmed his stance on the war.
"Unless you've been there and seen the changes that have been made in (Iraqi citizens') lives, you just don't know," he said. "That alone is a huge upside."
He also doubted the practicality of withdrawing U.S. troops within the next year-and-a-half. "That's too short of a time frame," Juarez said. "It's not like trying to flip a switch on and off."
The Democrats proposals entails re-deploying troops to Afghanistan to fight "the war on terrorism where it began," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, according to CNN. The Associated Press reported a presidential spokesman said Bush would veto any such proposal.
Juarez is now the owner and operator of Juarez Enterprises and Design, Inc., located in Craig. Citing work contracted to him through the Department of Energy in Grand Junction, Juarez said he still reaps the benefits of having military and government connections.
"It's a network but on a bigger scale," he said. "It's nationwide and in some cases, worldwide."
He also said the Marine Corps instilled in him sound management, leadership and training skills as well as self discipline.
Anyone seeking information on Marine Corps service -- local residents, students or their parents -- should call Juarez at 620-2762.
Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.