We’ve heard that the family that prays together stays together. But for the Abrina family, particularly for brother Manuel and sister Patricia, the family that enlists in the MAVNI together, enters the U.S. Army together.
“First reason was because of college benefits you get from the Army. We don’t have enough money to constantly pay for school. Especially if I went to the University, the Army will pay for my tuition fee; and I’m excited to continue my schooling,” said Manuel Abrina who enlisted in the Army through the MAVNI program.
MAVNI stands for Military Accessions Vital to National Interest. According to Staff Sergeant Yu Rhee, it is a program for people who have certain cultural and language skills. The U.S. Army wants to reflect the community they serve; so they want representations from the different diverse markets and ethnic groups in the community. Filipinos are one group that qualifies for this program, especially those who can speak Tagalog and other Filipino dialects. And one big benefit from this program is expedited American citizenship. Although that’s not what Patricia is after.
She enlisted after her brother, for the same reason he did:
“We are four kids in the family and I didn’t want to burden my parents with college fund; so I think joining the Army will help lessen that burden,” she said.
Manuel added that aside from education, the Army also provides opportunities for travel: “I know being deployed is not the only way you can travel because there are stations outside America that you could get stationed – Korea or Germany, perhaps. Hopefully I get to go somewhere like that,” he said.
Despite the benefits, Manuel and Patricia’s Filipino parents had apprehensions about their son and daughter joining the Army.
“My mom was ok. My dad and grandma were against it. They asked me on the phone over and over, again and again, if this is really what I want to do. I told them ‘Yes, this is what I want.’ I guess whatever happens, happens for a reason; but this is what I want to do,” Patricia said.
“First they didn’t like it. My dad told me that if I ever join the Army, I need to make sure I get an easy job, a desk job. But I decided to join because I want to do the job that I want,” said Manuel who is looking to qualify for a job that supports the infantry.
Manuel added that he convinced his parents by discussing the advantages and disadvantages in enlisting: “In the end, there are more benefits than the downside. They give you money for school, health insurance, dental insurance. It’s a job so they pay you money; yet there’s not much you pay for while you’re in the Army. They even provide a place to stay.”
And though their other family members are leery, brother and sister are in full support of each other.
“When my brother joined, I wasn’t surprised. He was always a strong person. I have no doubt he could tough it out,” Patricia said.
“I’m proud of her,” Manuel responded. “You shouldn’t be hampered based on your gender.”
Both are now getting ready to train with the U.S. Army, convinced that enlisting is the best thing they can do for themselves and for their future right now.
“I want to be more than what I can be. I want to be independent and stand on my own,” Patricia concluded.
For more information about the MAVNI program or enlisting in the U.S. Army, visit www.goarmy.com.