7/12/2013 -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Having lived in Texas, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Miami, Cpl. Max V. Tijerino, a 25-year-old combat engineer, comes from a multicultural background and treats everyone, from the Vietnamese locals to the Marines under his leadership, with an open mind and a helping hand.
Tijerino was one of two combat engineers with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, who participated in Pacific Angel 2013, a humanitarian operation in Vietnam.
“Going to Vietnam, you see how undeveloped their country is in certain parts,” said Tijerino, who considers Miami as his hometown. “A lot of the cities don’t have sewer systems and the infrastructure is just different. We went over there and we fixed up the clinics, we set up lights, electricity, air-conditioning, a furnace for burning medical waste and did some beautification.”
Despite his stern appearance and strict military demeanor, Tijerino always keeps an open mind to cultures as he believes it is important for success both in his career and his personal life.
“Going there is just a culture shock, it’s like jumping into a Dr. Seuss book, but it’s amazing because it allows me to experience new feelings and learn new ideas,” he added.
Tijerino’s experience and willingness to learn also helped him overcome the challenges that came with the mission in Vietnam.
“I went over there and I wanted to learn. I wanted them to teach me how to speak Vietnamese,” said Tijerino. “I was able to overcome the cultural and language barriers.”
Tijerino credits his mentors in the Marine Corps for helping him understand the value of interpersonal skills early on in his career. He has since pursued a double degree in Pre-Law and Theatre as he believes the course helps him tailor his leadership style to the junior Marines under him.
“I had to do mentoring as an noncommissioned officer, so I studied a lot of psychology and human behavior to help me understand my Marines and myself better,” said Tijerino. “Not every Marine is the same, and the knowledge I learned allowed me to help mentor each Marine individually.”
Furthermore, Tijerino believes that interpersonal skills and an open mind are important for his future goals.
“The reason why I want to go into law is because I want to work in public office,” said Tijerino. “I think minorities and veterans alike are very under-represented when it comes to public office.”
Due to his unique background at interacting with different cultures, Tijerino sees all men as equals, and he tries to make a positive impact on everyone he encounters.
“I’m satisfied when I affect those around me,” said Tijerino. “I’m glad when I can show the rest of the world that as Americans, we’re just like them, we just have different colored skin or wear a different uniform but we say the same jokes, we have the same smiles and we share the same pains and loves.”
Tijerino said the most satisfying moment during the humanitarian mission in Vietnam was during the closing ceremony when a girl, who he helped earlier by setting up dental facilities, gave him a flower.
“She was no different from my niece in Puerto Rico,” he added.