TEMPE, Ariz. — In 2010, the most destructive earthquake in Haiti’s history struck the Caribbean island, killing over 100,000 people and leaving approximately 1.5 million people homeless.
Sixteen miles from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter, Spc. Carl Denis and his family, natives of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, were among the people suffering in the aftermath.
More than eight years later, he was one of four Soldiers in the entire 7th Infantry Division to receive this year’s Green to Gold Scholarship, which will give him an officer commission in the U.S. Army upon college graduation.
“It was my own determination that helped me out and my initiative as well,” said the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer from the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. “When I finally got the letter, it was pretty much like an impossible feat that came into reality.”
Denis will enroll at Arizona State University this fall to major in information technology and focus on cyber security, he said.
“When I commission I plan to enter the cyberwarfare field, which is a pretty new career field in the Army,” said Denis.
The competition to receive a Green to Gold Scholarship is high and it takes commitment and dedication to earn the scholarship — both common concepts to Denis.
From his humble life in Haiti, at the age of 16, Denis moved to the United States shortly after the natural disaster.
As a teenager, Denis struggled to speak English, because he wasn’t accustomed to the language.
“It wasn’t a language I spoke regularly in Haiti,” said Denis. “I knew some English but I wasn’t as proficient as I am now.”
Despite his initial struggles, Denis took advantage of his bilingual skill, joining the Army through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program.
“I enlisted under the MAVNI language program because I speak Creole,” said Denis. “I received my citizenship when I graduated (Basic Combat Training).”
Despite living in an earthquake-stricken country, and immigrating to a country with an unfamiliar language, Denis continues to strive forward.
“It’s great to see a young Soldier like Spc. Denis, receive the Green to Gold (Scholarship),” said Sgt. 1st Class Sakpraneth Khim, Denis’ flight platoon sergeant. “We always want our Soldiers to do better than us, [and] he is a shining example of that!”
As a leader and a future officer, Denis hopes to show what a good leader he can be.
“It just takes that self-start and knowing where you want to go,” said Denis. “You’ll never know, you might get there, you might not get there. If you don’t get there then try again.”