My father was incarcerated and my step-father currently is in prison with a life sentence. My father was locked up off and on during my childhood. I don't feel like I ever really had a childhood. I was the father figure to my younger brother and I was only eight years old in that role. My father began the violence that happened in my life even before I was born. He didn't want my mother to have me. Three days before I was born, my father beat my mother repeatedly in an effort to cause her to loose me. But me and my mom survived. After I was born the violence continued. When I was eight years old, he walked away from me one day, telling me that he wanted nothing to do with me. At age fourteen, he pulled a knife on me and tried to cut me. At the age of seventeen, he pulled a gun on me and threatened to kill me if he ever saw me again. I spent my childhood feeling unwanted, scared, confused and thinking that everything was my fault. Us kids in NMVI can all relate to each other because we all have experienced similar life circumstances and feelings. I felt that my family didn't care about me and never did my entire life. I needed to talk to someone I could trust and could give me the family that I never had. I over heard some kids at school talking about NMVI and they were saying it was a good program and it really helped kids. The one most important thing to me that I over heard them say was that everything said in the group was confidential. That made me feel safe and I followed the kids to the NMVI classroom. I was then voted in, then sworn in and I am now an Executive Veteran and a family member for seven years. It was awesome. I went to the class everyday. We talked about everything. One critical thing that we all learned was that its okay to finally let go of all those painful childhood secrets that had haunted our lives. We had been told all of our lives that we had better not cry and and a lot of us got slapped for crying. I learned that I wasn't the only child that had been treated that way. And I especially learned that it wasn't my fault. I always thought I had done something to cause all of this bad, terrible stuff that I had been through. I didn't know until somebody told that I am not responsible for the behavior of my parents. Us kids don't know that if you don't tell us. We think that everything is our fault. I started feeling so much better and I felt loved and that I had a great big new family where I really mattered. I was happy and felt that I finally belonged. It's critical that us kids have this program to go to everyday during school. It saved our lives. It saved my life. Some time had passed and my mom, now, had a new man in her life and I now had a little sister, Nayeli. She was so cool. I loved her. I also had a two year old brother. My step-father beat on my mom constantly, just like my biological father did. I didn't want to be around him so I was gone all the time. Suddenly, on Christmas morning, 2002, everything changed. My step-father, drunk, came in raising hell with my mom around 4:00 in the morning. He demanded that she cook for him and fold the clothes that she had just washed. She was breastfeeding my little sister. She said she would cook for him and fold the clothes as soon as she finished feeding Nayeli. He demanded she do it right then. He pulled a gun on my mom. She stood and said let me put the baby down on the bed then you can shoot me. She asked him to please don't hurt her kids. My little brother was laying beside Nayeli. My mom turned and opened her arms and said "okay". He fired the gun. She saw the flicker as the bullet left the gun. She immediately took her hands and checked all over her body, sure that she had been shot. But the bullet didn't hit her. She turned and saw her baby girl lying in blood. The bullet had hit Nayeli and had gone through her right lung and traveled across to her heart. She died instantly...at eight months old. Ms. Gambrell learned about what had happened and went to my house. No one was there. She left notes on the door and talked to the neighbors. No one had been back to the house since Nayeli had been murdered. I was sick with pain and rage for what had happened to my little sister. My step-father ran and there was a statewide manhunt for him. I was looking everywhere for him. Two days later he was found. We went to trial. Ms. Gambrell was with me and my mom in the courtroom. Ms. Gambrell had recently broken her leg and now had a metal plate with seven screws in her leg right above her ankle. She had just gotten out of a wheel chair and now had a cast on her leg. She was waiting for the elevator in the courthouse. The elevators were full with a large crowd still waiting. So Ms. G walked five flights of stairs to get to our courtroom. She knew we were already in the courtroom and how emotional it was for us. Ms. Gambrell was determined to be sure we were not alone waiting for the trial to begin. I walked out in the hallway looking for her. I saw her coming up the stairs, holding on to the rails to get to us. Nothing was going to keep her from being there for Nayeli, my mom and me. My step-father received life in prison for the death of my little sister. I spoke at the Melanie Rieger Conference Against Violence in Connecticut in 2007 with Ms. Gambrell. I shared with the audience about my life and about Nayeli. Lisa Pellegrini planned a fundraising event along with other wonderful people in Connecticut to raise funds for a headstone for my little sister. Ms. Gambrell went back to Connecticut for the event and thanked everyone and represented our family. My little sister now has a beautiful headstone. My mom always thought that her little girl would be forgotten and her little grave would not even have her name on it. My mom was so happy to see the headstone. She cried and cried. It has helped us to heal. Ms Gambrell has a picture of Nayeli in the lobby of our facility for everyone to see as they come in NMVI is my family and I have received more love and support here than I have anywhere in my life. I will always come back and support Ms. G and our family. We want other children to have the opportunity that NMVI gave us. We want every child to feel better that is hurting and to know they do count and they do matter. We need to be in every school, not only in America, but in every country in the world. This program will work anywhere and everywhere. I love my NMVI family and I want to thank NMVI for loving me. Prison is not an option for my life.
Juan Mosqueda, Executive Veteran, 7 years