Vallejo twins take unusual route to citizenship

Twins in the East Bay enlist in the Army together and prepare for boot camp their next journey.

January 20, 2011 7:11:34 PM PST
A set of East Bay twins is enlisting in the Army together in the hope of becoming American citizens. It's been an emotional journey for the young Peruvian-born sisters, as they prepare for boot camp and what may come next.

"It was really fast. I came out and Meilyn popped out next, but she's still the baby of the family," Melissa Ventura-Benel said.

Even their own family has a difficult time telling identical twins Melissa and Meilyn apart. At 18, they've tried to go their separate ways, but they haven't managed to get very far.

"We always try to go our separate ways, but in the end we meet at the same point," Melissa said.

About a month ago, that same point was an Army recruiting center in Hayward, where the two sisters decided to enlist together. It was a sight that caught their recruiters by surprise.

"We haven't been able to track any case where identical twins who are females go in the Army before. I'm assuming they are the first ones," U.S. Army recruiter Jaime de la Cruz said.

For these sisters, the Army is a way to pursue an education and make their parents proud.

"My mom said once I told her that we were going to join, she said 'OK, the Army is going to teach you something that I couldn't teach you guys: more discipline. It's a whole different thing, I couldn't teach you,'" Meilyn said.

They know their mother is proud because she told them so right before she died of cancer just a week after they enlisted.

"She was like 'Oh I support you in everything you do and I know you guys are going to do good at it, and this is for your future,'" Melissa said.

Melissa, the oldest, will be first again. She will leave for South Carolina boot camp in about two weeks and Meilyn follows a few weeks later. But nine weeks later, for the first time, they will go their separate ways. Meilyn stays on active duty in Virginia, and Melissa comes home to Vallejo to join the Reserves.

"It will help us grow apart because we've been together always. We share a room, we had to share a car. We had to share everything," Meilyn said.

"Since we're twins, we were basically treated as one. But now it's giving us room to kind of separate from each other," Melissa said.