HARLINGEN — Kevin Schiefelbein was born on a ranch where he tended cattle and mended fences.
But since the age of 13, he’s pretty much been raised by Marines.
Now 17, Kevin is in his fifth and final year at Marine Military Academy. He’s come a long way from the baby-faced eighth grader who entered the academy straight off his family’s 5,000-acre Starr County ranch.
He is a cadet captain and is cadet company commander of Delta Company. That means he is in charge of mentoring and supervising 62 other cadets.
His parents wanted him to attend MMA because they thought it would better prepare him for college.
“Where I come from, there’s a lot of gang-related (activity) and drugs and my family didn’t want me to get into that,” he said.
“So, they wanted me to have a better opportunity to get into college. And the Marine life was a lot more honorable.”
But it’s been quite an adjustment for him. Attending a military academy boarding school hasn’t been easy.
“It was pretty challenging at first,” he said. “I hadn’t been away from home very much and I was away for about a month in summer camp. And the physical training was pretty hard. But I got through it.”
He became a full cadet after summer camp.
“It was pretty different with the Marine environment compared with living on a ranch,” he said.
“It was, I guess, people are always telling you what to do. It was pretty hard.”
Today, he’s an academic all-star who will graduate in the top 10 of his class and then attend Texas A&M, where he’ll study either petroleum engineering or business.
Meanwhile, he volunteers for the community with the MMA Key Club, Rotary Interact Club and National Honor Society.
In his roll as a company commander, he is tasked with instilling the Marine Corps way of honor, courage and commitment into young cadets.
“There’s a lot of discipline, there’s a lot of structure,” he said.
When he’s not studying, leading or volunteering, Kevin enjoys hunting and fishing on his family’s ranch during his school vacations.
“I just love it. It’s my sanctuary. I love the wilderness,” he said.
“My dad taught me how to field dress a deer, how to skin it and how to cut up the meat,” he added.
MMA leaders saw something special in Kevin, something they believed would make him a great leader.
He says, “They saw that I kept on pushing, pushing, that even if something pushes me down, I could keep on going. I wouldn’t stop.”