NATICK, Mass. (June 18, 2012) -- If you had to pick one person to blow out the candles on the cake during the Army's 237th Birthday, you couldn't do better than Staff Sgt. Sharalis Canales.
In less than seven years, Canales, 27, has transformed herself from a homeless New York City resident to a well-respected NCO at the Natick Soldier Systems Center. Putting on her nation's uniform literally changed her life.
"I am proud of the woman I have become," said Canales, speaking at NSSC's Army Birthday celebration June 14. "We each have our own reasons for enlisting in the Army, but I know that none of us could have expected how it would have changed our lives forever. I stand before you as someone whose life was changed because I joined the Army."
Canales was living at the Covenant House shelter in Times Square when she enlisted in November 2005. Prior to that, she had spent ages 14-20 in a group home after her divorced mother had given her up.
While others struggled to adjust to Basic Training, Canales shrugged it off -- she had already lived with far more people in the shelter. It didn't take long for the 4-foot-8-inch Canales to stand out in the crowd, and she has done so ever since.
"The Army molded me to become fearless," said Canales, "a leader and ready to face any obstacle thrown at me."
Canales, training NCO for the NSSC Headquarters Research and Development Detachment and president of the installation's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, said she was humbled to speak on the Army's Birthday so near to its birthplace.
"What better place to celebrate than to be here in Massachusetts, a few miles away from where our Army was first put to the test?" Canales said. "Today, we celebrate the generations of Soldiers who followed in the footsteps of those colonists who left their homes and embraced our nation's call to duty."
After she spoke, 60 future Soldiers from the North Shore Recruiting Company reaffirmed their oaths of enlistment, and a ceremonial cake-cutting took place. Canales, however, had shown everyone at Natick what the Army is all about.
"The Army is my family, my home, my life," Canales said. "I will continue to serve for as long as the Army will have me. I am thankful to be wearing this uniform today."