Santa Clarita Patriot I recently met Aracely Jimenez at our Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Patriots luncheon, where, as a local veteran, she was honored for her proud service along with six other veterans. Aracely was nominated for her Patriots award by Santa Clarita’s “man about town,” Ed Masterson of SOS Entertainment. I was touched by her humble, yet prideful speech at the podium and I instantly knew that she was a veteran I must interview as soon as possible. Here is her incredible story of survival, perseverance and honor. Ominous Start Ivanova Aracely Jimenez, who goes by Aracely, was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec. 27, 1971, and though she was a Christmas baby her early life was off to an ominous start. Aracely’s mother fancied the Russian name Ivanova so she inexplicably chose it as her daughter’s first name. Aracely’s single mother’s husband, while she was carrying her, left her high and dry and he took hostage Aracely’s two brothers when he departed. Aracely’s mother, Vilma, paid a midwife 25 cents to deliver Aracely in her quaint home. When Aracely was 8 years of age, Vilma relocated to America via our visa immigration program. However, it was necessary to temporarily leave Aracely with a close family friend until she was settled and could afford to bring her to America as soon as possible. Suffered Horrible Pain For the next 18 months living with the so-called family friend in a remote jungle region at Escuintla Village proved to be a living hell for Aracely. This family friend treated Aracely as an inconvenience and the discipline heaped on young Aracely was unjustified and criminal for minor infractions such as breaking a dish or not being able to read a clock. This repulsive woman would literally force Aracely’s hands over a stove flame to inflict horrible pain and would have her kneel for an hour or more on upside down bottle caps for punishment. As Aracely became quite emotional telling me these experiences, I thought, “What a wretched and despicable human being that so-called family friend was!” Aracely barely endured those frightful 18 months without even the benefit of attending school. Next, Aracely was sent back to Guatemala City to live with her aunt Teresa for the next year, which was a major improvement. High School Graduate Thankfully, in late 1981, Aracely’s Mom was finally able to retrieve her daughter and she drove them from Guatemala City all the way through Mexico to Tijuana where they entered the U.S.A. legally. Aracely was very excited and nervous as she celebrated her 10th birthday in Los Angeles and began attending third grade at Carpenter Avenue Elementary School in Studio City. Next, she attended Walter Reed Junior High School in North Hollywood and then graduated from Chatsworth High School in June 1990. Though she grappled with speaking English fluently, Aracely managed to excel in her studies and she joined Chatsworth’s drill team and became an exceptional cross country runner on their track team. She won awards and was deemed a solid U.S. Olympic hopeful by her track coach. Joined the U.S. Army Unfortunately, Aracely’s mother struggled to make ends meet and she had a tendency of paying little attention to her daughter’s high school achievements, which resulted in Aracely ceasing to participate in after-school programs. Aracely chose to work at McDonald’s and gave her earnings to her mother to help keep the family going. After high school, Aracely attended Los Angeles Valley College for a short while until she realized that she wanted to be a flight attendant, so she attended Academy Pacific Blue Business and Travel College. Aracely graduated from the academy in February 1991 but then she promptly enlisted with the U.S. Army Reserves on March 19, 1991, at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in downtown Los Angeles. Aracely took 12 weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and then she was off to Fort Lee, Virginia, for eight weeks of quarter master schooling. After Fort Lee, Aracely returned home and began serving her one weekend per month and two weeks annual reserves duties. Iraq War Volunteer In July 2009, Specialist 4th Class Aracely Jimenez volunteered for Iraq and two weeks later found herself 17 miles north of Baghdad at Camp Taji serving with the 96th Sustainment Brigade, an S-1 Logistics unit that dealt with classified information. Camp Taji was situated at an airfield within the volatile Sunni Triangle and was once a center for producing chemical weapons. Aracely’s responsibilities included tracking and monitoring supply and combat vehicle locations and providing reports for high-level officers. Aracely’s most prevalent safety issue was the clandestine criminal activity at Camp Taji committed by Iraqi soldiers and workers against U.S. soldiers and other Iraqis. Wherever she went within Camp Taji she armed herself and she never went anywhere alone as reports of random killings and rapes kept her on high vigilance. Due to her mother’s health issues, Aracely was assigned back to the USA in December 2009. Medal shown is Ivanova’s Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Homes 4 Families Aracely became a secretary and receptionist in 1991 working for a variety of small businesses and attorneys and on Nov. 16, 1993, her son Andrew was born. In 1994, Aracely and Andrew moved to Burbank until she moved into a new home at Santa Clarita’s Veterans “Homes 4 Families” community in October 2016. On July 14, 2000, her lovely daughter Sady was born and went on to graduate from Hart High School in May 2018 with honors. Aracely proudly informed me that Sady will begin attending the University of California, Santa Barbara, this fall and Andrew is following his passion of designing clothing and producing music. Thank You! Aracely loves volunteering in our community and she has a strong desire to continue her education at College of the Canyons and to start her own small business in photography and arts and crafts. Meanwhile, Aracely recently submitted paperwork to volunteer with International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) and it was just approved for her and her son to begin serving in Italy this September. Aracely is currently serving in her 20th year with the U.S. Army Reserves and anticipates retiring from the U.S. Army in two years. Aracely, thank you for your honorable service to our country and thank you for participating in the Signal’s Veterans program; it was my sincere honor to meet you and learning what a great American you are.