Daisy Fuentes - Graduate

May 11, 2011
Daisy Fuentes
Daisy Fuentes - Graduate

As a little girl, Daisy Fuentes knew what she wanted to be when she grew up: a police officer.

She looked up to her mother, an immigrant from El Salvador who made a new life for her three children in the U.S. "She worked so hard to provide for us and protect us." Fuentes figured she could protect people too by working in law enforcement.

Growing up in North Hollywood, Calif., Fuentes busied herself with sports including softball and track. When she graduated from high school, she looked into careers with the police as well as the military. She kept hearing from her family and friends about how challenging the Marine Corps would be.

Unable to resist the challenge, Fuentes set her sights on becoming a Marine. Because her father refused to sign the recruitment forms required for her to enlist at age 17, Fuentes reluctantly gave college a shot. She withdrew after one semester though, and, now 18, enlisted in the Marine Corps.

"One of my brothers was skeptical but the other only said I had better come back as a Marine." Fuentes recalls. So Fuentes headed to boot camp to confront the biggest challenge of her life.

"Everyone said boot camp was the easiest thing you can do in the Marines. Later, when I went into the fleet, I realized it was," Fuentes says. "Fleet training is more intense. They're really preparing you there to go off to war."

In early 2006, a 19-year-old Fuentes deployed to Ramadi, Iraq. As a field wireman, she helped set up and operate telephone and data systems in the field.

During her time in Iraq, Fuentes noticed changes in her vision. She started wearing glasses, but the problem worsened. Within a year her vision had deteriorated significantly. "It got to the point where I couldn't see myself in the mirror," Fuentes says.

Fuentes's condition didn't improve after she returned from her tour. She was diagnosed with a rare eye disease that may have resulted from exposure to chemicals during her time in Iraq. As her vision deteriorated, Fuentes faced another life-altering event. She found out she was pregnant. "It's scary to know that I might not be able to see my daughter," Fuentes says.

To correct her vision, Fuentes will need a corneal transplant. Meanwhile, she hasn't let her condition slow her down too much, juggling her roles as mother to her infant daughter, full-time psychology student and Wounded Warrior Program fellow in the district office of Rep. Brad Sherman of California.

Fuentes works as a Veterans Affairs Deputy in Sherman's office, helping veterans with issues ranging from workplace disability discrimination to Veterans Administration hospital benefits. "I think all of the cases are rewarding," Fuentes says of her work. "Just to know I helped a veteran."

Daisy Fuentes completed her fellowship in July 2012 and accepted as a logistician with a defense contractor.