HARLINGEN — Friends and family describe Alma Echavarria, 39, as an intelligent, strong and proud U.S. Marine.

For Alma, serving her country and exploring the world has always been her calling.

And judging by her achievements, she chose a career in which she was destined to excel.

U.S. Marines from the Harlingen area held an emblem ceremony Monday morning in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial in celebration of Alma’s recent promotion from Gunnery Sgt. to Master Sgt.

“We were very excited to hear about the promotion, and we’re so honored and proud of her,” said Connie Gonzalez, 52, a cousin of Alma.

Before commencing the ceremony, Alma’s mother, Maria, had the honor of pinning an emblem onto her daughter’s uniform.

Career

Alma has currently served for 19 years.

Over the years, she gained quite a range of experience both in the field and while conducting detective work.

“I came in as military police,” Alma explained. “I ended up doing a lateral move into the criminal investigation field so I am a Criminal Investigation Agent now.”

So far, she’s served in different bases and locations such Hawaii, Okinawa, Camp Pendleton and is currently serving at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Additionally, she has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I enjoy it because every day is different,” she said. “You never know what to expect every day you go to work.”

Making her father proud

Family members describe the moment of the promotion as being bittersweet.

Alma received the news of her promotion on Dec. 11, the day of her father’s wake.

“Unfortunately, my father just passed away so I am attached to this unit,” Alma said. “I’m glad I was able to get promoted in front of family members and my mom because this isn’t my duty station.”

Alma’s father, Antonio, also served his country.

He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was a Purple Heart recipient.

“I know my dad was really proud of me joining the military,” Alma said. “I feel like he’s watching over me.”

ALMA ECHAVARRIA

AGE — 39

HOMETOWN — Mercedes

PARENTS — Antonio and Maria Echavarria

BRANCH — U.S. Marine Corps

SERVED — 19 years

PRIOR RANK — Gunnery Sgt.

CURRENT RANK — Master Sgt.