In search of his potential…

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Posted Mon, Mar 29, 2010

Johnny Flores walked out the door from an Army recruiting office for yet another time last Tuesday. He had just finished talking to Staff Sgt. Kyle Esannason and was still working out the steps he needed to take to be accepted into the Army.

Flores has been jumping through bureaucratic hoops since he was 21, chasing his dream of becoming a U.S. soldier. Now 25, he is beginning to question if the Army is the career path for him.

Like many people his age, Flores is stuck in a lost and confusing phase of his life. The idea of what he wants to do with his future is still very abstract, but visiting the recruiting office gives him a sense of actually moving towards a goal, even if he isn’t quite sure what that goal is yet.

Flores has lived a life in which he has been given everything he could want, and yet has been denied so much at the same time. This dichotomy in the circumstances of his life is the main reason behind him feeling lost at the moment.

Flores was born on the East Side of Los Angles in March, 1984. His parents Francisco and Magdalena Flores Pantino were immigrants from Penjamo, Mexico. Unfortunately Flores would never get the chance to know them. Both passed away in a tragic car accident involving seven cars and two bank robbers. The accident was the result of a police pursuit. Both of Flores parents died in the accident and he was severely hurt in the crash.

“I’ve heard that I had multiple seizures in the hospital following the accident,” Flores says. He still has scars on the top of his head and a slight one across his face from the accident. Although he has no recollection of the crash, the impact it has had on his life is undeniable.

As a result of various lawsuits from the accident, Flores’ family was able to create a substantial trust fund for his future. This large sum of money has been a problematic aspect of his life, often making him wish he had never received it.

After the accident, it was decided that his biological Aunt Maria Solidad Flores would take custody of him. She took him and moved to Alamosa, Colo. removing part of his last name and attempting to distance him from his family, fearing that they would attempt to get at his trust fund money.

Maria proceeded to move to Denver with Flores, when he was about six-years-old where she bought a very large house at about Wadsworth and Yale using the trust fund money.

Flores says she spent this time living off the trust fund money. By his words he was rather neglected by her at this time, and was living a relatively solitary childhood. Although he remembers her being very nurturing to him when he was very little, as he became older she became more distant.

“I really had no friends at the time, I remember I would have to talk to myself because there was nobody ever around,” he says.

Maria died of pneumonia at the age of 50, when Flores was only 11-years-old. The circumstances surrounding her death were rather suspect. Flores says that he suspected the family had pulled the plug on her prematurely in order to get at the trust fund money.

After the death of Maria, Flores moved in with Irene, Maria’s daughter but things did not get much better.

“That time was fucked up… my trust fund was paying for her to live too,” he says. “I fucking hated her stupid drunk boyfriend.”

It was at this time, when Johnny was around 11 that a Maria’s son, a local pool shark named Felipe, would step in and take care of him. Felipe met a woman named Dawn, a wonderful and charismatic woman who would become a mother to Flores. Dawn created a very big family indeed, and Flores was able to spend his teenage years with brothers and sisters for the first time in his life. Although it was a close family, Flores had a very hard time accepting and getting close them.

“To be honest, it wasn’t until about two years ago that I really got comfortable with the idea of having a family,” he says.

Today, Flores, 25, carries around his past with a sense of sometimes bitter nostalgia. He says that he reflects on it a lot and there is no denying that it has shaped the man he is today. Dawn, who Johnny generally refers to as his mother, has been incredibly supportive, if not demanding on Johnny, she has held him to very high expectations, and is the kind of woman who can see through his excuses and his bullshit.

 Flores says he thought joining the Army would give him the sense of structure and propose that had been missing throughout his life.

Flores turbulent past has left him with a large sum of money at his disposal, but no direction or aim in how to use it or what to do. He preferred to not disclose the amount of money that had accrued in his trust, but suffice it to say that it would be more than enough to get him through college at the least. He had admitted that he is rather unsure of whether or not he can actually spend the money responsibly or apply himself to the demands of college.

“Because I always had anything I wanted bought for me growing up, I haven’t really developed a good sense of how to spend responsibly. I’m hoping the Army can give me the discipline I require,” he says.

The set backs that he has encountered in trying to enlist mostly have to do with the injuries he acquired as a baby in the car accident. He has a hearing problem in his left ear that has stopped him from passing the physical test, but he is currently talking to a doctor who will try and get him in anyway. He has even gone as far as getting a personal tutor in order to sharpen his math skills and help him pass the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) but progress has been slow moving and frustration for him. He has struggled with his scores in math, but this is one of the final hurdles for him to clear. If he can get accepted, he pictures his life changing dramatically.

To Flores it is more than just joining the Army because he simply has nothing else to do; it’s about reaching his potential and proving that he deserves all the chances life has given him. In five years he sees himself as a fully trained and qualified weapons sergeant. And he is currently working his ass off in order to reach this goal. Wherever his life takes him, it is this raw tenacity and passion that he is learning to use that is important.

 “I see myself developing structure and confidence,” Flores says. “I want to learn to stop doubting myself, and become able to set goals for myself and achieving them. Knowing that I can do whatever they ask me to do and whatever my job is. I really just want a beret too,” he says with a wry smile.

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