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December 7, 2010 > A home for the holidays

A home for the holidays

Submitted By Capt. Kyle Key

Daniel J. Sanchez woke up one morning and knew his day was going to be different than the one before-today would be the last day he would wake up on a park bench or worry about his next meal.

Sanchez' mother was only 17 when she gave birth to him. With no money, job or support, she put him up for adoption and at age six, his adopted parents divorced and he "ping ponged" for the next 11 years. Even when things were "good," Sanchez lived without running water or electricity in a trailer in Apple Valley, California.

At age 17, Sanchez was kicked out and went into survival mode; he dropped out of high school halfway through his senior year and found one deadend job after another to make ends meet. Sanchez wandered from place to place, staying with friends, shelters and under the stars.

After working as a ranch hand, Sanchez' adopted father asked him to come to San Diego but things didn't work out.

"It's just been really rough," said Sanchez. "My dad couldn't afford to have me in his house. I stayed at my sister's house, but it was the same situation." Health issues and hard economic times hit his family hard forcing him to go it alone. Sanchez hit the streets again.

Sanchez called the Army National Guard (1-800-GoGuard) and spoke with Sgt. Arkadiy Knopov. "He was ecstatic when I confirmed everything that he read about GED Plus," said Knopov. "Part of the reason why I became a National Guard Recruiter is because I want to help young individuals like Pvt. Sanchez get on the right track in life." Through the GED Plus program, Sanchez was able to enlist, get full time pay, benefits, housing, and three square meals a day while going to school to earn his GED credentials. "I wasn't taking him seriously at first," said Sanchez. "But when he told me there actually was a program like this, I really started to get into it."

The National Guard GED Plus Program at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas lasts from two to three weeks and prepares new recruits for the GED examination, administered at the end of the course. Upon successful completion, recruits depart for Army Initial Entry Training.

Sanchez took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam and scored well above average, allowing him to select fire support specialist as his military occupational specialty. After completing a physical examination, he raised his right hand and became Pvt. Daniel J. Sanchez, the newest recruit in the California Army National Guard. Sanchez and other recruits like him not only have a home now, but have become part of something even greater.

"We're changing lives at the National Guard GED Plus Program," said Causby. "It's not unusual for us to be a source of refuge for young adults facing hardship, adverse conditions or dangerous situations. Many times, we have coordinated to get family members or our recruits off the streets and into better living situations. The day they graduate they become a part of a huge family, the National Guard family, and we take care of our family."

Sanchez said he's got big plans. "It's good to know that I have a bright future ahead of me. Right now, I just really want to support myself."

For more information call 1-800-GoGuard or visit nationalguard.com.

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