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Home : News : News Features
NEWS | Dec. 10, 2021

Liberian native builds his future in the Army National Guard

By Master Sgt. Ryan Campbell, New York National Guard

LATHAM, N.Y. – Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Prince Dorbor, a native of the West African country of Liberia, was 14 the first time he saw an American in uniform.

Dorbor and his family had survived two civil wars, one that raged from 1989 to 1997 and a second that began in 1999 and lasted until 2003. Almost a million people were killed in the fighting.

That day in July 2003, U.S. Marines were flying into the Liberian capital of Monrovia to help stabilize the situation and end the years of fighting.

“I still remember that day as it was yesterday,” he said. “Standing behind our little house in New Georgia Estate, looking up, I saw a U.S. Marine UH-60 flying very low. A gunner sat by the window, and all the children gathered around, rejoicing as they waved at the Black Hawk.

“In my heart, right there in that moment, I pledged that if I was ever given the opportunity, the chance to come to America, I would gladly serve in the U.S. military,” Dorbor said. “For they have helped save a nation that was close to the brink of annihilation.”

In 2005, Dorbor moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated high school with honors in 2010. When he moved to New York in 2011, he enlisted in the New York Army National Guard. 

He realized his American dream after learning the importance of freedom and security.

“All my life, I have lived through turmoil in a poverty-stricken country,” Dorbor explained.

Liberia began as a colony for Black Americans, both born free and enslaved, in 1822 to escape discrimination in the United States. By the turn of the century, nearly 20,000 had immigrated there.

By 1847, a declaration of independence and a constitution established an independent republic, with the settlers who called themselves “Americo-Liberians” in charge.

One of the few African nations to escape colonization, it navigated its way through both world wars and was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945. However, the nation was fractured by a military coup that led to civil war in the 1980s.

In 1980, Liberian army Master Sgt. Samuel Doe staged a coup that killed the president and took control of the country. In 1989 Doe, in turn, was deposed and killed, launching a civil war that went on throughout the 1990s.

An agreement of disarmament and demobilization was reached in 1996, with elections held in 1997 where Charles Taylor was elected president.
Soon after in 1999, a rebellion against Taylor led to the second civil war after the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, along with the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, began their assault on government forces.

“Children as young as 10 years old were forced to become child soldiers,” Dorbor said. “I, however, was fortunate to never become one thanks to the guidance of my dearest mother.”

Under this guidance, he said he walked 6 miles a day to get to and from school, avoiding becoming one of the estimated 20,000 children forced into the war.

“I valued education above all, and I knew in my heart at an early age that there is more to life, and I must achieve my goals no matter how rough life gets,” he said.

With Monrovia’s capital in danger of being occupied despite the ongoing peace talks in 2003, the United States established Task Force Liberia with a Navy amphibious group built around the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“Thanks to the intervention of the United Nations, and especially the United States that sent some 500 Marines to help with the peacekeeping mission in Liberia,” recalled Dorbor.

U.S. forces arrived in Monrovia in July 2003 as part of Operation Shining Express to rescue embassy personnel and American citizens after the embassy had come under attack the previous month.

By mid-August, with U.S. and West African forces on the ground throughout Liberia supporting the peace efforts, Liberian President Charles Taylor resigned, ending the fighting after 14 years.

Dorbor’s family then decided his future was in the United States.

“I moved to New York and I joined the U.S. Army National Guard, fulfilling the promise and pledge I made when I was just a teen in Liberia,” Dorbor said.

In the New York National Guard, Dorbor reached the rank of staff sergeant. He eventually served as full-time victim advocate at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham.

Outside of the National Guard, he began studying national security and intelligence analysis at Excelsior College and, in November, was hired by the U.S. Secret Service in Maryland. With the new career path, Dorbor is transferring from the New York National Guard to the Maryland National Guard after 10 years of service.

In December, he and his wife, Mercy, are expecting their first child.

He said it had been over a decade since he last visited Liberia, but his growing family will learn about their Liberian heritage.

“When I look back at my story, the only thing I can say is that I thank God for his protection,” Dorbor said. “An immigrant, who once had nothing, not even enough food to eat and carry him throughout the week, who walked for miles to go to school, is now an American citizen.”