Fallen Marine Inspires His Brother-In-Law
(Reprint from the Santa Maria CA Times December 28, 2003)
David Bernardo stands with a picture of his brother-in-law, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, at his parents' house in Orcutt. Bernardo enlisted in the Marines after being inspired by Menusa's death in Iraq. He leaves next month for basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego
When David Bernardo goes off to basic training as a U.S. Marine recruit next month, he will have an extra weapon guarding him closely, his family says.
"He's got a little extra edge going into boot camp because he's got a real Marine guardian angel watching over him out there," said Stacy Menusa, David Bernardo's sister.
She's referring to her late husband - and David's brother-in-law - Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, who died March 27 while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"My inspiration for joining the Marines was my brother-in-law, Joe," he said during an interview Friday at his Orcutt house with his parents, siblings and nephew. "I needed to do something better with my life."
Already mourning a war casualty of their own, Bernardo's family remains supportive as the 19-year-old's departure date draws closer. He leaves Jan. 12 for basic training at Camp Pendleton near San Diego
"There's always danger," said his mom, Rosie. "There's a danger crossing the street. We can't be focused on the negative of what's going on over there because it can happen in a car accident."
"For me, it's scary but I'm so proud that he made the decision," his dad, Eddie said. "He's going in a boy and coming out a man ... I'm just so proud of him."
When he graduates from basic training, David Bernardo will become a Marine Corps electrician, which will give him skills that will transfer into civilian life, he said. He enters the military undecided whether to make it a career or just do a four-year stint.
Despite supporting David's decision, sending him off won't be easy for his family, which includes brother, Stephen, and nephew, Joshua Menusa. Born nine weeks premature, David Bernardo weighed just 4 pounds at birth, spent months in a Fresno hospital and received oxygen for more than year.
"For our baby to being going off to the military, I know it's going to be hard," his mom said. "But I also support him and I know the military will give him some direction in life."
David Bernardo graduated from Righetti High School in 2002. He worked three years at Carl's Jr. and did a stint in security at Hancock College. He attended college for a semester, but decided school wasn't for him.
After his brother-in-law's funeral in the spring, David Bernardo said he visited the Santa Maria recruiters office. Recruiters called him repeatedly over the next few months, but he hesitated when asked to enlist.
At the end of October, he called his parents - out of town to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary - and broke the news.
"I think he shocked us," his mom said.
His dad said he believes David would have enlisted sooner if Joseph Menusa had returned from war.
David Bernardo said he only briefly considered other military branches, saying the Marines stood out.
"They impressed me most," he said. "They look the best. They're just inspiring. I want to be one of the few and the proud."