NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) -- Wednesday was graduation day at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, and one graduate stood in the spotlight after overcoming an amazing obstacle that dates back to his childhood in Haiti.
The road which has lead 24-year-old Orlando Morel to graduation day is one paved by pain and promise. A journey which began when his mother took him on her escape from Haiti when he was six.
"She's the one that took the journey with me and sought the new opportunity," said Morel.
Crammed into a lifeboat, like so many have, a piece of bread which fell in the water became a coveted meal.
"The piece of bread that fell, I remember that a lot," said Morel, "just because of the shear saltiness of it."
Morel was later rescued by the US Coast Guard. He and his mother were brought to the US instead of returned to Haiti because she was sick. There she met a navy translator who would later adopt Morel.
"It was so easy to pick up the dream of his mother and continue it when she died," said Louise Morel Jackson, adoptive mother.
And soon her dream to have her new son join the very Coast Guard which saved him became his dream as well.
"This is the land of the brave and see what I mean, Orlando deserves to be called American because he's a brave little boy," said Jackson.
Also among the 233 graduates are 13 folks from Connecticut.
Along with their degrees they received their commissions. Morel will serve on a US Coast Guard Cutter off Florida and may now rescue refugees in the same boat he once was.
"I'll have mixed feelings. One because when we intercept them we have to send them back to Haiti," said Morel, "but however that's way better than being out to sea and starving or dying of dehydration. If I can give one person the opportunity I had then it will all be worth it."
His father, sister, and brother remained in Haiti, but haven't been heard from since the earthquake two years ago.
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