Why a female Chicago Public Schools student chose the military

“Why are you moving so slow PR!?” the sergeant screamed in my face as the sweat was dripping down from it. His spit combined with my sweat and it moved down my eyelids as it slowly reached my lips. The sweat and spit sat on my upper lip giving me the ability to smell it yet imagine the disgusting taste. The sun blazed in my face after sergeant walked away. I was blinded, yet I kept my planking position on the ground. There is no stopping during PT (physical training) you either keep going or you might as well quit and leave.

I’ve always viewed the Marines as people who are looked up to. They are people who are not afraid of a challenge. They are people who risk their own lives to save others. That’s who I want to be. My mother on the other hand, doesn’t agree. She constantly reminds me that in order to be a Marine, I need to be a man. She states that the job of a Marine doesn’t fit under the category “Woman”, that a woman doesn’t meet the standards of dealing with aggression and facing everyday deaths. I didn’t bother arguing with her. She doubts me and that’s all it took to break me down and realize how horrifying it is to not have the support of my own mother. I wanted to prove her wrong.

In my junior year, I decided that I wanted to join the United States Marine Corps after high school. I thought deeply and weighed out the benefits of it. A huge envelope came in the mail, inside containing a book giving of information on what the Marines expect from a person and what their goals are. Their goals pulled me in. Quite after reading I received a call from a Staff Sergeant. I went for an interview, met some more sergeants and a couple of Poolee’s (people getting ready to leave for boot camp). As soon as the interview was over Gunnery Sergeant Smalls handed me my PT uniform because I was starting the next day.

For the next year, I trained in certain exercises such as push-ups and pull ups. I would try to do more than I could to show my motivation on getting what I want. As the gunnery sergeant began to notice my motivation, he chose to stick to me like gum. Gunny Smalls (Gunnery SGT’s nickname) was constantly on my back shouting at me from the top of his lungs. Yet, at the end of the day he would always congratulate me on my progress. The more I practiced the better I got, that is until I reached the running challenge. When that began I was falling behind, running way back trying to catch up with the rest of the guys. I’d turn and look back just to notice that neither destination point was close enough to run back to or to keep running to. Staff SGT. Thierry then ran back, when I assume he noticed I was far behind. He mentioned to me “No one gets left behind, now come on!” After hearing those words I jumped back to running position. This work is now a part of my daily life and is a routine I intend to keep.

Back in the beginning of August I was losing my mind. I had constant images and flashbacks of my mother’s words. I was ready to give up. I stopped going to PT because I was sick of hearing her remarks about me going and being a tom boy. She would say I was wasting my time. I soon began to believe that myself. Two weeks into August I avoided total communication with the sergeants at the recruiting station and the poolee’s. They would call me each and every day, text me, whatever they could, but I’d ignore it. I was feeling weak and sad by then. My mother noticed it but she never suggested going back.

A couple days later I was doing my stretches in the front of my house, preparing for a run. As my back was facing the street, someone walked up to me and tapped my shoulder. I turned back and it was Gunny Smalls! He sat down and began to talk to me about why I stopped going. Our talk resulted in tears, me explaining to him about how no one supported me in what I wanted to do. He gripped my shoulders and told me to look up at him, so I did. He said I was a big missing part to the group. If I wanted to keep going he would do whatever is possible to get me back where I was again. I felt special. He was my motivation. As soon as my mother found out I was going back again she went on complaining about the same thing over and over. I ignored her comments and remembered what Gunny Smalls said. I was motivated once again.

I realized I really didn’t need anyone to support me, especially with major put downs, which in my case came from my mother. I was motivated by the ones I want to be like. My mother still doubts me, but I tell her that whatever she says against my choice in joining the Marines doesn’t matter because I’m still going to PT until my boot camp date is in my hands. I simply know that I want to be the better Fighting WOMAN, a United States Marine.

To protect the delicate relationship with her family, this Hancock senior asked that we only share her initials: B.P.

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