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SSgt Oscar Hayott poses for a photo on the basketball court in Marcus Garvey Projects where he grew up.

Photo by Sgt Jarren Burleson

From Marcus Garvey Houses to the Marines

11 Feb 2020 | Sgt Maverick Mejia 1st Marine Corps District

It is well known that it takes hard work and dedication to earn the title “Marine” at recruit training. But for some, they must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles just to stand on the famed yellow footprints. Staff Sergeant Oscar Hayott, a recruiter serving with Recruiting Station New York, persevered through a particularly challenging upbringing and has since thrived as a United States Marine.
Hayott was no stranger to challenges at a young age. He spent his childhood moving every few years and went through three orphanages and five foster homes in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, which was one of the most troubled in New York City at the time. Through all of this upheaval, Hayott lacked mentorship and positive role models until he found himself in his sixth foster home.
“The [home] that will always be memorable for me is my sixth foster home,” said Hayott. “It was in Marcus Garvey Projects where it all began. She had me for nine years.”
His sixth foster mother taught him valuable life lessons, but most importantly, she ignited the flame that lit his path to success. She encouraged him to fight for his dreams and become a better version of himself despite his circumstances.
At age 17 he ran into a Marine Corps recruiter for the first time, but he was unaware of the Marine Corps’ strong focus on leadership and professional development.

Hayott explained that he was determined to enter college after graduating high school and didn’t know about the educational benefits in the Marine Corps.

After this encounter, Hayott continued to face challenges. He had incurred student debt, was working a minimum wage job to cover his expenses, and had moved into a seventh foster home after his previous foster family moved out of the United States. He found himself at a crossroads not knowing which way to turn; he was on the cusp of losing the motivation his foster mother had instilled in him. Coincidentally, he ran into that same recruiter who he had rebuffed two years before.
“Imagine running into the same recruiter from two years ago, and he’s talking to you as if he has known you all this time,” said Hayott. “I didn’t know who I was talking to, but he talked to me as if he knew me. This time I trusted him and he made me a Marine.”
Hayott enlisted at age 19 with a guaranteed contract for the Information Technology Technician and Data Network Specialist military occupational specialty. This was the same trade he studied while attending college prior to joining. Through the Marine Corps, Hayott took the opportunity to advance his education and focus his energy towards bettering himself, all while serving his country. Since then, he has earned a variety of additional certifications in the Marine Corps, including Marine Corps Embassy Security Guard, Martial Arts Trainer, and now, Canvassing Recruiter.
“I knew joining the Marine Corps would have made my mother proud,” said Hayott.
The same flame ignited years back by his foster mother has now grown stronger in the Marine Corps.
“The Marine Corps will give you plenty of opportunities,” said Hayott, referencing his many career accomplishments thus far.
In addition to life-changing opportunities, the Marine Corps has also recognized Hayott’s hard work. He has been meritoriously promoted four times for standing out among his peers. The Marine Corps has recognized his leadership potential and entrusted him to take on greater responsibilities with each rank.
“Every rank I set out to achieve has been given to me meritoriously,” Hayott said.
Hayott frequently reflects on his current life and appreciates the contrast from his childhood. The reflection is even more meaningful given his current role recruiting near his old neighborhood in Brooklyn.
“I just hit my ten-year mark in the Marine Corps last month,” said Hayott. “I love it.”
Hayott never takes for granted the opportunities the Marine Corps has provided him and the hard work he put in to achieve his goals. Now, the opportunity to similarly change the lives of those young men and women he comes into contact with every day as a recruiter motivates him to keep pushing.
“I have stayed in the Marine Corps because I know there is someone out there who is going through what I have been through or worse,” said Hayott. “And I want to show them that through hard work, they too can achieve what they want to achieve in life.”

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