Marine 2nd Lt. Jefferson Talicuran, of San Diego, is one of more than 1,000 new officers who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy May 23.
But, as a prior-enlisted Navy corpsman with a Purple Heart on his chest, his path to the academy was different from that of his classmates.
Talicuran is originally from the Philippines. His uncle, a retired Navy chief corpsman, helped his family immigrate to the U.S. in 2004. Following his uncle's example, Talicuran enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a corpsman.
While still in boot camp, he learned about the possibility of attending the Naval Academy, but put off applying until after his first deployment, assuming that the experience would make his application more competitive. He completed boot camp and reported to his first duty with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines based in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif.
In April 2008, he deployed to southern Afghanistan. Less than two months later, he was on patrol with his squad in an Afghan village, passing an abandoned yellow bicycle when it exploded, causing a traumatic injury to the brachial artery in his left arm.
Despite the explosion, Talicuran remained on his feet and was able to move to cover with the rest of his squad. Once they realized the extent of his injury, he talked them through what to do to apply a tourniquet and medicate him.
Talicuran was sent back to the U.S., first to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center then home to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. While recovering from his injuries, he was also undergoing a medical examination board that would decide whether he would get to stay in the military.
"You have to realize there are things that are out of your control. What is in your control is to move on and do your best," Talicuran said. "Don't just settle and assume you're heading for a med board so there's no point in finishing your application. I still had hope."
Determined to continue his service, Talicuran underwent daily physical and occupational therapy and was eventually cleared for continued service. He also received his U.S. citizenship in November 2008. While serving on temporary duty at the hospital, he completed his Naval Academy application and was accepted, reporting on Induction Day in 2010.
"That's how my 'American Dream' started," he said.
Talicuran, 25, said that despite his experiences and the fact that the younger mids looked up to him, the Naval Academy still posed its own challenges, especially mentally.
"I tried to adapt to that environment," said Talicuran, who graduated with a B.S. in information technology. "I would share my experiences if asked, but not just put them out there."
Evidently his prior experiences didn't put Talicuran off serving in the Marine Corps.
"Working with the Marines was the best thing that happened to me," he said.
Which is just as well, as Talicuran is in the first wave of graduates to attend the Basic School within weeks of graduation.
"I'm excited to do my job and do it well," he said.