DOWNEY – “The Few. The Proud.” This is true for former Marine Yuri Escandon as he wears his former military status proudly. Escandon knew at an earlier age that he wanted to protect the United States even though the country was not his birth place. “I wanted to be a part of the best,” he says. “Growing up in Ecuador, at 8 years old I saw a Marine AMTRACK vehicle and right then and there I knew I wanted to be a Marine.”
Yuri graduated from Bell Gardens High School and, shortly after turning 18, enlisted to become part of the United States Marine Corps.
Escandon served from June 1989 to May 2009 with extensive experience under his belt. His Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) included 0400: Major in Logistics, 0802: Artillery, and 9910: Training of Marine Core. Yuri was given the opportunity to further his education while serving as the Marine Corps sent him to USC where he acquired a bachelor’s in Public Administration.
He was deployed overseas with the 3rd Marine Division as an officer. Yuri describes that the most challenging thing he had to experience was being a minority. “Fitting in” was a huge factor in acceptance for him at this time. Escandon describes that there was not “a language barrier,” it was the fact that he was “a Latino officer that was breaking the barrier.”
With trying to fit in, Escandon was feeling the pressures of missing home. “Snail mail was the only form of communication,” he says, and it proved to be a huge factor as communication with his soon-to-be wife Tara and family was nonexistent.
Yuri returned back to the states in 1996 where he served in the recruitment depot in San Diego. Transitioning back into civilian life was not problematic as he immediately “transitioned back into public service.” He states that he “wanted to give back to the country that given back” to him.
He served under the Beverly Hills PD as well as the Downey PD. A huge factor when deciding what direction he wanted to go towards was the want to be a part of a brotherhood once more. When asked about whether or not he would relive his military experience over again if given the opportunity, he replied “absolutely! Military service molded and shaped me into what I am today.”
Yuri continues with describing that the leadership traits and principles that he had learned while in the Marines laid the ground work for who he is today.
Escandon’s advice to anyone considering joining a branch is to “count the costs.” He mentions that after the ceremony the costs begin and you have to be crystal clear on what they’re going to be to solidify your decision. While deployed, Yuri mentions that the most amazing thing is to watch the natives of the country see the American flag.
“The American Flag signified freedom for these people and served as a reminder to us that freedom is not free.”
Yuri followed in his mother’s footsteps by going to work for the same company as she did for 20 years. He currently holds the position of Vice President of Field Operations at TELACU (The East LA Community Union) where he is applying his leadership skills from the Marines into the company. Being a “Marine core officer, we were drilled about leadership” and by this he takes charge of his position and applies exhibits leadership as his main focus by providing housing for homeless veterans through TELACU’S housing residences.
Yuri states that he continues to tell his story in form of motivation for other veterans to come forward. He wants to encourage young veterans to display where they are now due to their military experience; “Your tour doesn’t end when you come home. We need to remind everyone that freedom is not free” and that the skills that they have acquired through training is helping better the society.
Yuri currently resides in Downey with his wife, Tara, and their four children and continues to encourage veterans to use their skills to be successful.
“Coming Home: A Veteran’s Story” is a project between the Living Tree Foundation and the Downey Patriot, with the goal of telling the stories of local veterans. If you are interested in telling your story, contact Julie Garcia at (562) 884-8683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: Sept. 11, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 22