SAN DIEGO — An Oceanside man who lost nearly 200 pounds in hopes of becoming a Marine is now preparing to leave for recruit training in San Diego.
Before Gabriel Mendez Ramirez had even reached high school, he knew he wanted to become a Marine, Defense Visual Information Distribution Services reported. When he started at Rancho Buena Vista High, he weighed 365 pounds. Classmates mocked him in the halls as he walked by.
The following year, Staff Sgt. Anna Rodrigues visited his class to share her experience in the Marine Corps.
“She looked at me, not at my weight,” Ramirez said. “She told me, ‘it’s all up to you if you want it,’ and from there I got her card.”
Throughout his junior year, Ramirez began doubting himself. Other service branches told him his weight would stand in his way. After visiting Recruit Sub-Station Oceanside, he started working hard and shedding pounds.
“I did my first workout with them and it killed me,” Ramirez said. “I ran a 26-minute mile and a half, I couldn’t do any pull-ups, and I couldn’t even do 20 crunches. But, they always encouraged me, motivated me, and pushed me.”
Eventually, Ramirez started gaining back the weight he had lost. That’s when he joined his school’s wrestling team. His coach, a Marine veteran, taught him dedication and persistence. But a short time later, his mentor was replaced.
“The team didn’t really like me,” Ramirez said. “At first I didn’t let it get to me, but once my new coach told me, ‘You suck.’ His words really hit me hard and I quit the team.”
But Rodrigues never gave up on pushing Ramirez.
“She showed up at my house one day out of the blue,” Ramirez said. “She really put me in check that day. She told me to stop doubting myself and just put my mind to what I wanted to accomplish. I was the only one that could make this happen for me. No one could do it for me.”
Now, after losing 186 pounds, Ramirez is now headed to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.