PULLMAN, Wash. – For as long as they can remember, the Claros brothers have shared an unusual drive to succeed. Whether it was because they were born into poverty in El Salvador, or because they spent the first part of their lives in a Los Angeles neighborhood ruled by gangs, they always push each other to overcome obstacles in order to be the best they can be.
So it wasn’t a complete surprise to those who know triplets Donald, Jack and Joe that they decided to enroll in Washington State University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program following graduation from Joel Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash. They left WSU as Army officers and eventually deployed to fight for America in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hearing about the extraordinary lives of the Claros brothers, WSU Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment John Fraire knew they could help inspire students to pursue their dreams. He invited them to meet students on the Pullman campus on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The brothers are scheduled to speak to WSU military sciences classes as well as students in the Chicano/Latino Student Center.
Different paths taken
For Jack, this visit to campus will be his first since he graduated from WSU with his two brothers in 2002. Jack graduated with a degree in architecture, Joe in advertising/communication and Donald in broadcast production/communication.
“College was the last place where we got to see each other and hang out with each other all the time,” he said. “We don’t see each other very often since we live in different states. The Army has taken us on different paths.”
Jack works as a job captain for Group Mackenzie, an architectural and engineering firm in Portland, Ore. A resident of Vancouver, Wash., he is also a member of the Washington National Guard.
Donald, the firstborn of the three, lives in Mesa, Ariz., where he helps manage a Goodwill store. He serves as a commander for two companies in the Arizona National Guard.
The youngest triplet, Joe, lives in Las Vegas. He is a strength manager and a commander of three units in the Las Vegas National Guard.
Set up for success
All three of the men worked their way through college doing jobs like washing dishes at the CUB and Rotunda or providing security during Cougar football games. As busy as they were, they hold fond memories of their time at WSU.
“My time at WSU was great and I made a lot of friends,” said Joe, who majored in advertising. “About 90 percent of our graduating ROTC class deployed. WSU set us up for success.”
He attributes much of that success to Jim Zuba, director of business development for the WSU Alumni Association. Zuba was the ROTC commander during the time the Claros brothers attended. Joe remembers him as an excellent mentor and looks forward to seeing him during his visit.
All three of the Claros brothers cherish their opportunity to give back to their country through military service. And now they want to give back to WSU, a place they say was instrumental in giving them opportunity. Each remarked how his life journey taught him many valuable lessons – lessons they all want to share with WSU students.
Communication, perseverance important
Don wants students to know the communication and leadership skills they learn in the classroom will impact their lives whether in the military or as civilians.
“Leaders have to be great followers,” he said. “You don’t have to have the best plan – the best plan comes from listening to others and learning from their experiences.”
Jack recalled being out of work for eight months after he returned from the war. He ended up taking a job in land surveying to make ends meet before eventually breaking into the architecture business.
“Right this second it may seem to students like the odds are against them,” he said. “But with enough will and drive they will be able to overcome those obstacles.”
He said many members of the younger generation have a sense of entitlement. But “if you want something to happen, you need to go after it,” he said. “Opportunities come when you least expect them and they might never happen unless you take a chance.”
Sharing motivation for life
The Claros triplets remain close. Despite their busy lives and the many miles between them, they make it a priority to talk with each other about once a month.
“We have all led the same complex lives and we are best friends,” said Jack. “It was great at WSU. How many people get to experience college with two brothers?”
“Growing up, we balanced each other out,” said Donald. “When one of us was feeling down, another helped give a new perspective. The competition between us was definitely there. But it wasn’t about who is better. We used it to motivate and push ourselves to the next level, whether it was in sports, education or life in general.”
The triplets have two younger siblings a brother Carlos and sister Bella. Bella is on track to graduate from WSU in May.