Jesus Cervantes joined the U.S. Marine Corps a few years after high school. It wasn’t the uniform that drew him to enlist, he said. It wasn’t the commercials, it wasn’t the recruiters.
“Being a kid raised in Chicago on the poor side, I enjoyed the endurance, the toughness level,” he said.
Cervantes’ family moved from Iguala in the Mexican state of Guerrero to Chicago when Cervantes was a baby. He grew up loving sports, especially the Chicago Cubs. He played basketball and baseball in high school. Cervantes spent eight years in the Marines and earned the rank of sergeant. He was a driver, transporting equipment and personnel. He loaded ships and spent time in Australia doing simulated combat training with the Australian military. He also served in Iraq.
“I was a Swiss Army knife guy, doing lots of different jobs,” he said.
He was still in the Marines when he watched a Boise State football game on television.
“ESPN did a special halftime show about the city. That’s what attracted me. Boise was completely different from Chicago,” he said.
Cervantes wanted a change, so in 2016 – the year his Cubs won the World Series – he enrolled at Boise State. A first-generation college student, he’s loved computers since he was a kid, but put those interests on hold during the military. Being back in school, he said, was like revisiting his childhood. He admitted that at times, he wanted to quit. He called upon the discipline he learned in the military.
“I told myself, ‘Nope, I have to finish this,’” Cervantes said.
He did, receiving his degree in information technology management in 2022.
Cervantes lives with his partner, Carmina Fernandez, who works in health care. They share three pets – Meeko, a sleek black dog, and two cats, Valor and Chewbacca. Since moving to Boise, Fernandez said, the two have begun creating new traditions, including patronizing a favorite Christmas tree lot each winter and bringing hot chocolate to the workers. “They know us,” Cervantes said. Photos by Patrick Sweeney