In the community, Schools

Vale graduating senior finds a path to the future with Guard enlistment

VALE – Josuel Castro-Parra didn’t like going to school.

“I did good but all I wanted to do was get out of there,” he said.

Then, when he was a junior at Vale High School, he had an insight.

Castro-Parra peered down the long road of the future and realized he needed focus on more than just capturing a high school diploma.

He wanted to do something meaningful and find a vocation where he would have retirement and a comfortable life for his family.

He decided to join the Oregon Army National Guard, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry.

“I wanted a great future,” he said.

Castro-Parra chose an unusual path to become a citizen-soldier. He signed up for the National Guard during his junior year. The summer before his senior year, at 18, he shipped out to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training.

He came back to Vale, finished out his senior year and last month got his diploma. He now heads out for advanced individual training as a truck driver at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri, deep in the Ozarks.

Basic training changed Castro-Parra.

“It made me look at life way different. It shows you that the world revolves around you, and you are important but there are others around you to take care of. You never leave someone behind,” he said.

The Army training was tough, he said.

“I wanted to quit but I told myself, no, this is for my future,” he said.

He said basic training taught him how to “listen and focus.”
“It also shows you to not let anything sidetrack you. And to be respectful. The little things become the biggest things in basic,” he said.

He said he was a changed individual when he returned to Vale High School.

“I was very serious when I first got back. It was really weird. Some kids didn’t know what I went through and were not as mature as I was,” he said.

Castro-Parra said his mother and father came to the U.S. from the Mexican state of Sonora.

“They came here with nothing and they came here for a better future for my brothers and sisters. We’ve had a great life and I want to give them the most I can,” he said.

Castro-Parra is the second oldest in his family. He has an older sister and two younger brothers.

Castro-Parra said his family motivates him.

“I want to show them that I can do everything that gets in my way,” he said.

Now 19, Castro-Parra works two jobs – at a farm in Payette and at Malheur Drug in Vale.

At Malheur Drug “I clean, work as a cashier, water the plants they have,” he said. “I clean, work as a cashier, water the plants they have,” he said.

He begins each day early at the farm in Payette and then at about 3 p.m. goes to Malheur Drug.

He said he plans to remain in the Guard.

“I want to stay in at least 20 years,” he said.

Castro-Parra said earning his high diploma was also a big turning point in his life.

“It feels awesome. I feel proud because I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to do it because I didn’t like school,” he said.

Alisha McBride, Vale School District superintendent, said Castro-Parra serves as a “great role model for his younger siblings.”

“I’ve known Josuel since he was a student at Vale Elementary School. I have been inspired by Josuel’s decision to attend training during the summer between his junior and senior year of high school and his commitment to achieving his goals,” said McBride.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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