Onexi Medina grew up in the countryside municipality of Utuado, a small town in the mountains of Puerto Rico with seven brothers and four sisters. His family, like most there, didn’t grow up with a silver spoon; his father worked for Baxter Medical Products and his mother was a stay-at-home mom.

Now an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class, Medina rose through the ranks to be the Air Department leading petty officer aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). He credits his success in the Navy to his upbringing.

“I come from a poor family,” said Medina. “We didn’t have anything from the time I grew up; we lived like how they did back in the [old] days in a good way. It gives you a positive sense of what life and family is and how to appreciate what you do have.”

Joining the Navy out of Puerto Rico, Medina had to overcome the language barrier in order to be competitive in the fleet.

“I didn’t speak a single word of English [upon enlisting],” said Medina. “It was a big challenge because I had to use my survival skills to overcome that fear that came with not understanding my surroundings. It took me 3 1/2 years to learn to speak English fluently; now I can communicate without a problem.”

Medina joined the Navy to get out of his small mountain town, see the world and take his life beyond what he believed he could achieve in Puerto Rico. Joining the Navy would provide him the opportunity to earn his college degree and travel to places that he never thought he would have been able to afford if he hadn’t joined.

“The main reason I joined was to travel,” said Medina. “The second reason was to earn my education. I wouldn’t be able to achieve this goal as easily back home. The Navy has provided me that opportunity.”

As the Air Department leading petty officer, Medina leads 142 Sailors in three ratings across three divisions in all facets of their technical rates and career. His leadership qualities continue to motivate them to push themselves to the limits of their potential every day.

“He inspires me to be the best at everything I do and through every aspect of my life, both on and off work,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Brittany McGhee. “He quickly took me under his wing and showed me the ropes; it didn’t matter what he had going on, he would take the time out of his day to pass his leadership skills on to me so that we could team up to take care of our junior Sailors in a productive manner.”

Medina’s view on the meaning and value of family has been his greatest inspiration during his 12 years in the Navy. When he becomes discouraged he thinks of them and pushes through challenges and adversity. He is the first person in his family to pursue both a college education and military career.

“My number one motivation is my family,” said Medina. “Considering my background, how hard it was, and looking at my family history, I’m the only one that can say I’m successful. I want to make sure I can give my family that push and the opportunities to become successful as well.”

Medina achieved the rank of petty officer first class in just seven years. After failing to make rank the first time he was eligible for advancement, he became disinterested in the Navy. But his appetite for success and self-value kept him in the fight.

“I took the [first class] exam after five years and I missed it by less than a point—.34 to be exact,” said Medina. “I asked for help to get that extra point and I didn’t get it, so I got discouraged and wanted to get out of the Navy, but then I realized I didn’t actually have a plan for after I got out of the Navy. My command wanted me to remain with them to complete another deployment, but I was selected for recruiting duty, so it was time for me to leave after 5 1/2 [on sea duty]. I decided to push forward and do a lot of studying, and here I am.”

Medina’s upbringing is probably one of the biggest factors in shaping his outlook and attitude on life. He wants to advance his career as far as possible.

“While I’m in the Navy I will earn my master’s degree,” he said. “After that I’ll follow one of two paths—if I remain enlisted, I’ll keep going all the way to master chief [petty officer]; if I get selected to be an officer, I’ll achieve as much rank as I can until my 30-year career is up.”

Medina also challenges himself daily to see others succeed. The valuable lessons he learned while growing up in that small town in the mountains of Puerto Rico guide his steps, inspiring the belief that with hard work anything is possible.

“The biggest challenge to achieving a goal is you,” said Medina. “If you tell yourself you want to achieve something, it’s obtainable. Everything is achievable in this life; all you need to do is set the goal and move toward it.”

Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.

For more news from USS Boxer (LHD 4), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/.

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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)