Cuban brings Pride in Service to USA
By PFC Leah R. Burton
13th COSCOM PAO
Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Pfc. Eldis N. Lima, a petroleum supply specialist with the 424th Quartermaster Company here, has served in the armies of two different countries.
"I grew up with my mother and two sisters in a small village near Havana in a very humble home," said Lima, who is assigned to a U.S. Army Reserve unit out of Long Island, N.Y.
But 15 years ago, the Cuban government expected him to join the Communist Party upon reaching the age of 18 and he refused.
"So after that, they denied me employment, benefits - stuff like that. Once you have a different view of the political and social climate, they close doors on you. So as I grew up, I decided I wanted more respect than that," Lima said.
He, his wife and his children left Cuba in 2003 and moved to Long Island in search of that respect and more political and social freedoms than Cuba could offer them.
"[My mother and sisters] didn't want me to leave, but now they understand why I did it," he said.
Prior to serving in the Cuban army as an infantryman, the 33-year-old father of two had attended an industrial design institute and earned his associate's degree in graphic design. He was stationed in Ceiba del Agua, Havana, Cuba, and served three years before moving to Long Island. Upon settling into life in the United States, Lima took a job as a graphic designer and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve.
He said his time spent in the Cuban army prepared him for service in the U.S. Army by teaching him military discipline.
"He's had a hard time getting used to the American way of life, but overall I think it's been a good journey for him," said Capt. Louisa R. Bargeron, 424th QM Co. commander.
"He's an excellent Soldier, one of those Soldiers who's very smart. Even though he's a [private 1st class], he's very smart. I often use him for his technical skills. His computer skills are awesome."
Lima credits his decision to enlist to both his desire to answer the call of duty and his quest for benefits for his family.
He attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in April 2003, and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Va., in September 2003.
"In the Cuban army, the soldiers don't have an idea what they're fighting for. We have that in the American Army. I like it because you have a sense of purpose. You can be all you can be like the commercial. If you stay long enough, you can make it a career," Lima said.
Initially, however, his family wasn't as sure about his decision as he was.
"At the beginning, my wife was a little bit scared because she knew I might be sent to war, but now she's pretty confident. She supports me 100 percent,"Lima said.
As a husband and father, it wasn't easy for Lima to leave upon hearing that he was being deployed.
"It was hard to leave them. They are two boys, and they were always with me," he said.
"Well, since I joined the Army I knew [the United States] was getting ready to deploy troops so it didn't catch me by surprise, especially since I joined in March and that's when the war started," he said.
On post, he works in the unit's Personnel Processing Center, because civilian contractors have undertaken the normal responsibilities of petroleum supply specialists. However, Lima is an invaluable asset to the PPC, said Bargeron.
Lima was granted an expedited appointment for his naturalization upon his return stateside.
"This will be a great thing for him, because he's eager to be naturalized," Bargeron said.
Upon redeployment, Lima has many goals for his family's future. "I would like to stay in the Army, raise my family and hopefully help my family in Cuba," Lima said. "I would also like to go back to college."
Though Lima seems to have led a life thus far that most privates have not, he said he would still like to do so much more.
With naturalization and redeployment in his future, he said he feels he has much to look forward to in his future.
In his spare time, Lima enjoys drawing, painting, working on his laptop computer, taking pictures with his digital camera, reading, and playing dominoes with his fellow Soldiers.
Pfc. Eldis N. Lima
Pfc. Eldis N. Lima