Last week, Ruben Marinelarena ’02-’03 was a government concentrator five months away from graduation, with plans to work on a political campaign for a couple of years before attending law school.
But this week, Marinelarena—a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve— is packing up and leaving the rest of his senior year behind for an undisclosed location with the Marine Corps.
“I’m going from waking up at 11 a.m. every day to waking up at 4 or 5 a.m.,” he said as he tossed books into one of the various boxes that cluttered his Lowell House room last night. “Planning on taking Heroes or Samurai?” he joked, as he packed the sourcebooks for those classes.
A former finance director for the Harvard Democrats, Marinelarena went through a year of infantry training after his sophomore year, and has since trained one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer with his New Hampshire unit.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Marinelarena prepared for possible reactivation but it never came.
But Sunday at noon, he received a life-changing phone call. He is the only Harvard student to be called into service.
Although he said he welcomes the chance to serve, Marinelarena said he is concerned that students will see his service as inherently political.
“I’m adamant to serve my country, but that’s not to say that I want to go to war, though. I’m just happy serving my country,” he said. “As marines we should never be for war, but we should never be hesitant to serve.”
His friend and former blockmate Katherine A. Shackelford ’03 said Marinelarena was an exemplary public servant.
“A lot of other Harvard students couldn’t handle what he’s doing. He’s a tough kid and I’m happy it’s him going and not someone else,” she said.
Shackelford recalled that Marinelarena has always been ready to serve his country.
“Right after September 11 happened, he got all his bags ready in case he was called. He would never second-guess his being a marine, and he’s proud to do it,” she said.
Marinelarena, who will leave tomorrow, said that his professors have worked with him to resolve outstanding exams.
He said that his fraternity Sigma Chi has been especially supportive.
“It’s a very tough time, and I’m not an emotional guy but they’re taking me out every night, showing me a good time before I go,” he said.
But his most significant source of comfort has been his year-long girlfriend.
“My girlfriend has been amazing and I regret putting her through this. She’s my girlfriend, my best friend, my confidant and I couldn’t be any luckier, considering the situation,” he said.
Taking a moment to look around at his now-barren room, Marinelarena shrugged with a soldier’s composure. “Things change,” he said.
Marinelarena is at least the second Harvard affiliate activated since Sept. 11.
Harvard University Police Department Patrolman Scot Green, a sergeant in the Marines reserve, was reactivated in the weeks following the 2002 attacks and is still on active duty at the Marine training facility in Quantico, Va.
—Staff writer Romina Garber can be reached at email@example.com.