NATICK, Mass. (March 5, 2012) — Many Soldiers have called the Army their home over the years. Few have meant it more than Staff Sgt. Sharalis Canales of the Natick Soldier Systems Center.
You see, when Canales enlisted in late 2005, she had no home. Instead, she was living in a New York City shelter and facing an uncertain future.
"I didn't have a place to live," Canales recalled. "I went to the Covenant House, which is a shelter in Times Square, and I stayed there for six months."
Canales, 26, certainly has come a long way in six years. At Natick she serves as training noncommissioned officer, or NCO, for the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment and as Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers president. Soon, she will represent the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command NCO of the Year competition.
"The Army has not failed me since I've been in," said Canales, who earned the rank of E-6 in five years. "The Army gives me everything that I need. This is my family."
None of this could have seemed possible to Canales at age 14, when her divorced mother gave up her daughter to foster care. She was placed at the St. Cabrini Home in the Bronx.
"Mainly, the girls that lived there had just gotten out of juvenile detention hall and stuff like that, and I was there because my mom and I were having a lot of issues," Canales said. "My dad divorced my mom, and I started running away because my mom was being promiscuous."
The eldest of five children, Canales had a difficult time adjusting to the group home but got plenty of help.
"The staff members, they took care of me," Canales said. "They taught me everything that I know, and because of them, I am where I am now, and I'm very grateful for that.
"Despite all the negative stuff with the (other) girls, I always took it and turned it into something positive," she recalled.
Canales wound up graduating from Mother Cabrini High School and getting a scholarship to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but her world got complicated again.
"I was having adjustment issues," Canales said. "I think there was probably only like 10 [minority students] on the campus. It was my first time being away from the group home. I felt like I didn't fit in."
After a year at Marist, Canales transferred home to Monroe College, did another year there and decided to join the Navy. At age 20, she signed herself out of the group home.
"I didn't make it through the Navy," Canales said. "So when I came back I couldn't go back to the group home."
Canales went to see an Army recruiter, who drove her to Covenant House, where she would stay until he got her paperwork in order.
"He was with me every step of the way for six months until I joined," Canales said. "I have been very fortunate to meet very, very good people that have helped me out throughout these years." [Read Full Story]