He couldn't enlist after 9/11 because he was undocumented. At 35, he just finished boot camp
BY CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ
MAY 10, 2019
Vargas' enlistment in the Army Reserve marked the culmination of a remarkable, nearly two-decades-long journey from undocumented immigrant to trail-blazing attorney and activist. It also served as a stark reminder that the country Vargas has fought so hard to serve in uniform is still leaving many — including his family — in the shadows.
Specialist Cesar Vargas, 35, a former undocumented immigrant, graduated from basic training in late April after unsuccessfully trying to enlist for nearly two decades. CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZFort Leonard Wood, Mo. — One by one, the young soldiers stepped forward methodically, announcing their rank, last name and hometown.
By the time it was Cesar Vargas' turn, his brothers and sisters in arms in Charlie Company had mapped out locations across the U.S. and around the world — from Omaha, Nebraska and Brooklyn, to West Africa's Burkina Faso and Lima, Peru.
"Puebla, Mexico!" the 35-year-old Vargas shouted, stepping in front of his comrades, many of whom had recently graduated from high school.
The stark age difference between him and the other boot camp graduates was not lost on Vargas, now a specialist in the Army Reserve. Since he was a teenager, he's been trying to join the armed forces. "After 9/11 — as a New Yorker — I took it very personally," he told CBS News. "And while many of my friends were trying to enlist, I couldn't because of my immigration status."
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