Welcome to Part II of this amazing American’s story of survival and perseverance going from a life of poverty and violence living in a jungle to becoming a prominent Santa Clarita business owner and family man.
America needs more great patriots such as Tchicaya.
Once in Sacramento, a cabbie took him to the cheapest hotel at $20 per night which normally accommodated pimps and prostitutes. For Tchicaya, however, it was a four-star hotel.
Soon afterwards, he was unfortunately robbed of all his money at a shopping mall. Undeterred, Tchicaya landed a janitorial job cleaning floors and toilets where he met a young man who sought his help to physically shape up so that he could join the military.
One day, two men were observing Tchicaya and the young man said, “Mr. Tchicaya I want to introduce you to my Marine Recruiter.”
In the Congo, people referenced white men as ‘Mister;’ Tchicaya began thinking “In America I am somebody.”
“Have you ever wanted to be a Marine?” the recruiter asked.
Tchicaya thought back to those Marines on the golf course remembering how they mocked and laughed in his face and he instantly blurted out, “Yes, “I want to be a Marine! I want to be a savior of the planet.”
U.S. Marine Corps
On March 22, 2000 Tchicaya entered Boot Camp and, because of his great conditioning, he became his unit’s Guide even though he knew very little English – which was problematic when marching.
When column left was called he turned right, so he promptly lost that position.
Soon, however, he mastered the English Language.
After Boot Camp, Tchicaya attended the School of Infantry in San Diego, Calif. where he advanced to the top of his class. It was then that he realized the white man was not God.
Next, he was sent to Camp Lejeune at Jackson, North Carolina, and due to his athletic prowess and his excellent shooting skills he joined a scout sniper platoon where he was the only black man.
The Marine Corps taught him mental toughness. After our September 11th terrorist attack, Tchicaya’s Marines were deployed to Iraq where, as a squad leader, he led his Marines in battle.
Tchicaya once again experienced violence and death of those around him.
Congolese Warriors Song
During one firefight, to lift his Marines’ morale, he began singing his old Congolese warrior’s song. Network cable channel, MSNBC, happened to be reporting there so they interviewed him when things died down.
“You’re not an American citizen so why are you fighting for America?” the news crew asked.
“I’ve been rejected all over the World but America gave me freedom and I wish to give back,” Tchicaya replied.
When his tour of duty ended, his company commander called him to his office. Tchicaya thought he was in trouble until he was advised he would receive U.S. citizenship upon returning home.
That August day in 2003 as his citizenship was granted, Tchicaya thought, “This is the best day of my life.”
At last, he knew that he was free.
In the Shadow of Freedom
During a leave of absence, Tchicaya journeyed to the Congo to visit his mother and family, but he was suddenly arrested. Authorities believed he returned to help overturn the government and he was jailed and tortured.
Tchicaya attempted to escape and he was shot at, captured and thrown back into his prison cell.
Soon afterwards, an Aunt smuggled a cell phone to Tchicaya and he managed to make a 911 call to the Ventura, California’s sheriff department, who in turn contacted the FBI, who passed it to on to the Pentagon and then the State Department was notified.
Five days later, a contingent of Marines brought Tchicaya home to America and he continued his military service until his Honorable Discharge April 9, 2008, as Sergeant E5.
Tchicaya’s awards are: Combat Action Ribbon, Navy and Marine Achievement Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, three Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, And Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
All his life Tchicaya believed that he was living free in the Congo until he discovered true freedom in America, and only then did he realize that he always had lived in the shadow of freedom.
“I am living proof of the American Dream,” Tchicaya said.
And because he firmly believed that too many American citizens do not fully appreciate how special they have it in this country, Tchicaya wrote a book in 2010 titled “In the Shadow of Freedom.”
In recent years, Tchicaya has earned two master degrees and his doctorate, plus he established “The Warrior Fitness and Wellness Camp” here in Santa Clarita. Tchicaya and his lovely wife Ana, whom he met in Frankfurt, Germany, and married October 7, 2005, and their three children have lived in Saugus since May 2006.
Serving and Giving Back
By becoming a U.S. Marine, Tchicaya can proudly state with conviction that he has truly given back.
He’s also very proud that he met his promises of achieving higher education made to his father, and that he honored his grandmother by becoming somebody here in America.
Tchicaya recently purchased the Hart District’s old headquarters building on Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita, and he aspires to complete its conversion this year into a wellness center where participants may live and train.
He’s also very interested in serving and giving back to our community and possibly even running for elected office.
Tchicaya’s credo: “Working harder than the man next to me. The best never rest, you rest when you die. Life is easy, don’t make it difficult. No man knows himself unless he has suffered. Congo to America, the sky’s the limit.”