Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Tico Airs Feelings on Iraq War

May 23, 2008

While many of his countrymen are proud their nation has no military, Tico Gabriel Solano went elsewhere seeking one.

Solano, now 35 and a dual citizen of Costa Rica and the United States, served three tours of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. A heavy equipment operator, he built bridges, barracks and heliports in Barbados in 2002, and served in Kuwait and Iraq during two tours of duty in the on-going war in Iraq.

The veteran, who was invited to speak at a Republicans Abroad lunch Tuesday in San José, said it was his childhood dream to become a soldier.

“Since I was 8, I developed a strong interest in the U.S. Army, and at the time I didn’t know all the different branches,” he said.

His dream was on hold from 1988 to 1996 while he worked here as a National Police reserve in Costa Rica, specializing in search-and-rescue operations.

In late 1996, he began working for the U.S. Embassy, providing security for Methodist missionaries. There, he met Randall Spencer, a missionary from Pensacola, Florida, who later adopted him as a father figure and helped him move to the U.S. “Spencer was the reason I was able to pursue my dream,” he said.

Within years of his arrival in the U.S. on a tourist visa, he married a U.S. woman, which led to his U.S. residency, thereby making him eligible to enter the military. The couple later separated.

While in the military, he received U.S. citizenship.

Solano has since left his days in Iraq behind, although he keeps in touch with friends still there.

One memory in particular, he said, will stay with him forever.

“One of the worst things I saw … was when we were clearing munitions from towns and schools,” he said in an interview with The Tico Times, his voice choking.

“There was maybe a 5- or 6-year-old boy, and he had a mortar shell in his hand. He was trying to bring it to us because he knew what we were doing and he wanted to help.

We were screaming at him not to move, but he didn’t understand. But he tripped and fell and the shell went off, killing him.”

Solano who achieved the rank of sergent, also said he wasn’t completely in favor of the war in Iraq.

“I wasn’t there because I support that we’re there but I do support my brothers (in the military),” he said. “I agree with the fight against terrorism but I’m not sure that’s the reason we’re in Iraq. But I just follow orders.”

He currently lives with his second wife, a Tica, in San José and works for HewlettPackard.

 

You may be interested

Costa Rica approves law punishing street sexual harassment with jail and fines
Costa Rica
5803 views
Costa Rica
5803 views

Costa Rica approves law punishing street sexual harassment with jail and fines

AFP and The Tico Times - July 14, 2020

Costa Rica's Legislative Assembly on Tuesday passed a law that criminalizes street sexual harassment and punishes it with prison terms…

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for July 14, 2020
Costa Rica
21356 views
Costa Rica
21356 views

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for July 14, 2020

Alejandro Zúñiga - July 14, 2020

Costa Rica confirmed 446 new cases of the coronavirus over the past day, totaling 8,482 cumulative known cases, the Health…

Panama hospitals on verge of collapse as virus cases surge
Latin America
1219 views
Latin America
1219 views

Panama hospitals on verge of collapse as virus cases surge

Juan José Rodríguez / AFP - July 14, 2020

Hospitals in Panama are on the brink of collapse as coronavirus cases spike in the Central American country worst hit…