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Marine and mother leaves office life to fight in Iraq

This Mexican-American Marine left her comfortable corporate job to return to the Marines and serve in Iraq. In her interview she shares how hard it is to be away from her sons, but that the rewards of the job and the satisfaction of knowing she is a part of protecting the United States makes it worth the sacrifice.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
I am a United States Marine, with 10+ years experience. My career road has varied and is ever-changing. I have worked in the areas of Logistics, Administration, Civil Affairs, and Operational Planning. I would describe my self as a positive thinker, hard charger, with a passive aggressive personality.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
I plan the movement of 10,500 Marines and their equipment to Iraq, Afghanistan, and over 100 operations and training exercises. I feel lucky to be one of the few defending our nation. It is an honor to serve my country, and the US Marine Corps has given me the opportunity to do this and learn and grow so much. A common misunderstanding about the Military is that war is all we do. I often talk to civilians about the many amazing and humanitarian services our Marines are doing all over the world, rebuilding roads and towns, resupplying schools, orphanages and hospitals, handing out medications and medical screenings all over the world… and they always ask the same, “Why aren’t more things like this reported in the news?”

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
I am a Mexican American female. I am fortunate to work in a brotherhood where all our Marines are not male or female but Marine, all one color “green”. Although there are some jobs that females can not do in the Military, I have always understood why and I do not feel that being female has held me back in my career field. On one occasion, being female has opened a small world were Males are not allowed, the opportunity of talking to Iraqi females and interacting with them in their homes and daily lives in Iraq.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
I would rate my job satisfaction as a 9, only held back by the fact that I am a single mother. I have two beautiful, wonderful sons that I love so much. However, the military is a highly demanding, high stress job, working 50 to 60 hours a week, sometimes weekends and traveling constantly. I sometimes feel that my children need more time with me and I make the most of the time we have together.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
Of course this job touches my heart every time one of our Heroes is lost in Afghanistan. Every time a little child has to say good bye to daddy for a year long deployment. Every time the news reports on the latest celebrity gossip and neglect to mention our lost heroes… and on a more personal note, every time I am in uniform and somebody approaches me and says “Thank you”, when I know they are really saying it to all our Military in harms way.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I was a young 17 year old girl, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life and I didn’t know if college was the right path for me. Then one day I was approached by a sharp looking Marine in dress blues who asked me if I wanted to be one of the worlds finest. Many people tell me I should have gone Air Force or any other service, but I wouldn’t change that decision for any other service.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
I learned that I love the structure and order of the Military. There was a time when I felt that I didn’t want to be a Marine anymore and I ended my contract and faded away into another corporate job without rewards. I spent three years of my life in a business skirt and went home each night wondering what difference I was making. That’s when I decided to come back into the Military and deploy to Iraq.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
I have learned that if you work hard and do your best at what you do, people will notice and it will open up many doors and opportunities. I have learned that with more obligations and responsibilities comes more work, and you have to make time for family because they are what keeps you grounded.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
I wouldn’t say there is anything strange about this, but every time someone knows I am a Marine they always ask me if I know their son (or someone they love) who is a Marine somewhere… and I never do but it usually leads to a long and interesting conversation where I find out a lot about a stranger I never knew only because they knew a Marine once.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I get up and come to work because I have a contract and would be locked up in jail if I don’t show up. In actuality, I show up because I know that the job I do has a lasting effect on our history and that I am a small part of something important.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
The constant change and 180 degree turns of the military life is both a blessing (I get restless and bored of routine) and something that I hate. I wish my sons had a steady home and normal childhood, but they can only to a certain extent because I have to move my family across country every two to three years.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
My job is highly stressful, but I balance it by spending as much time as possible with my children. Every weekend is dedicated to fun and relaxation to the max… fishing, the park, the zoo or a little staycation.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
My salary is $45,000 a year for 10+ years of service. I have a modest and comfortable life but there is a lot of cost cutting and not a lot of savings. With two growing boys it is hard to save for a broken down car which is almost inoperable by now.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
We are lucky to be able to take 2 weeks of vacation each summer and several smaller vacation through out the year… I like taking a couple of days at a time to spend important days with my children.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
None, everything I need to know I learned in the Marine Corps.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
To really think about it and make an informed decision.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
Driving my boys cross country on a summer long road trip.

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  • Alexandra Lomeli

    Thank you for joining this line of work. It is truly admirable, inspiring and self-less of you to be able to go to work everyday to provide for your boys. You have much love for them and it definitely shows. The courage you had to quit a corporate job to essentially help the world deserves nothing less of appreciation. Thank you.

  • cg

    I grew up a lot when my oldest cousin joined the Army after 9 11 and was sent to Iraq. He was like my older brother back then, someone I looked up to. I missed him when he was gone, and at first I really didn’t understand what was going on but, over time I realized it ad he changed every time he did get to come home. I admire the sacrifices that great men and women like him make every day for our nation. It is for this reason that I know am working to become an female officer in the United States Air Force. To carry on the legacy of those who came before by standing strong in the face of hardship and diversity.

  • Stephen White

    This story reminds me of why I chose to serve. I can’t take as much credit as the mother discussed here. I wouldn’t be able to relate to leaving children behind. What I can add, however, is that every Vet has made a sacrifice to some extent. They may not completely understand what that sacrifice is, or the complete impact of that decision. At the time they make the decision, it seems manageable and logical. It is rare to encounter people that cultivate that type of dedication. It takes a genuine “service before self” mentality. In these rare individuals, the safety of others is truly more important than the safety of themselves.
    I can speak objectively because I can recall my attitude towards service members before I decided to serve. I didn’t understand why they would choose to be involved in such grueling situations. I couldn’t decide why they wouldn’t just enjoy the benefits of freedom, here at home. The majority of people never serve and live happy lives. What would make them decide to endure horrible training and work environments?
    My decision to serve came from my passion in aviation. I never thought to pursue that path through military venues. The decision came after 9/11. I was in college when the attacks took place. The community center was full of students watching a big screen after I was released from class. We all witnessed the second strike take place. That level of fear and now realized vulnerability leaves you in shock. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I just remember looking towards the sky all the way to work. I usually do, but this time it was due to a thirst of needing to know what was going on.
    Once at work, I noticed Air Force One overhead escorted by two fighters. The president was landing at Offutt AFB. I knew at that point, I needed to do whatever I could. My selfishness knew that I needed to fly. My logic knew that I needed to serve. I was enlisted one month after my 21st birthday. I now fly for an Air National Guard Fighter Wing.
    Looking back, I have put myself and some of my family in dire situations, emotionally. I will always wish I could have left them in less worry, but I will never regret the crazy situations we have been successful with. Among the many benefits, my family is truly proud and I have personally been a motivation to others. The experience is priceless.

  • ljbears35

    Thank you for the service and dedication. I too have served and in 2003 had the opportunity to move away from the private sector to military service. Being hispanic I can appreciate the focus on being green in the eyes of the military and the brotherhood that is built by being a soldier.

  • William white

    I myself have experienced this. As a member of the Army National Guard I have been deployed overseas and had to leave my family behind for a year at a time. It is never fun to leave your loved ones 7,000 miles away, however, the experience comes to define you as a person in new ways. You learn to depend on yourself and your buddies with you to make it through; in the process you gain new skill and life lessons that you are able to take home with you when it comes time to return. It will forever make you a better person and you will be able to pass those lessons and skills onto your family

  • Vivian K

    My best friend from high school is currently in the US navy and it scares me I will not see her again but I know she is very proud to be serving her country and I am proud of her for being so brave even when some can’t.

  • cbell

    This September I will learn what it is like to have a loved one deploy. My boyfriend will be leaving for deployment and I have never dated anyone in the military. I know its going to be tough but it will all be worth it in the end. I have more and more of an appreciation for the military and what they do each and everyday. So thank you for serving.

  • Sabrina Roman

    Joining the United States Military does not only provide one with a stable, yet heavy hearted occupation; it also provides a way of life, for those who join and the family that supports them. My father works for a government funded company who creates all infantry, air craft, and ships for all branches of the military; luckily it’s my own sibling’s who got to experience my father’s inventions of expertise when on the battle field. Being the youngest I have the honor to look up to a sister in the U.S. Coast Guard, a brother in the U.S. Army, and a brother who has bravely gone through three tours of Afghanistan in U.S. Marines; I am honored to say I am very proud military sister. I believe experiencing a military life style can provide knowledge and life lesson that cannot be taught anywhere else.

    As 9/11 caused a destructive devastation in our Nation and created a war that shall never be forgotten, sending loved ones on deployment not knowing if they may come back, 9/11 also created a bind in this Nation that caused hearts to change and back bones to grow. I believe saying goodbye to my sister and brother’s not knowing if it were going to be my last helped my choice in becoming a Political Science Major; although military is not the choice I made in my life, it allowed me to know that I will strive for a future with a government job to help those men and woman that risk their lives for me everyday. Our Mlitary may not be the biggest, strongest, or have the most weapons; but we are the best because we can come together as a Nation and support one another to fight for our freedom. Military personel are the back bone of the citizens of the United States, they provide our people with reason of proudness, they provide togetherness, and dreams.

  • stditt11 .

    I’m currently serving in
    Afghanistan and have been in the Army for over 6 years. First I applaud anyone
    who chooses to join the military in a time of war. It shows the outmost
    dedication to your country. Leaving your corporate job and your family to serve
    your country in a time of war is true selfless service. Furthermore, what
    really inspires me is your positive outlook on things; love of duty and
    country. You are happy to go work every day regardless of the rigors of
    military life. You are dedicated to your sons regardless of the constraints and
    limitations placed upon you by the military. You are a very admirable person;
    thank you for your service and good luck on all you future endeavors.

  • Alyssa Wood

    My Dad Served 25 Years In The Army. We Served 2 Trips To Iraq. One In 2004 When I was 9 Years Old And The 2nd In 2010 When I Was 16 Years Old. It Was One Of The Hardest Struggles I’ve Had To Face In My Life. He Was Always There For Me And He Couldn’t Be While He was Gone. He Is My Hero And Nothing Is Going To Change That. Not even The Fact That He Is Retired. The Military Took A Part Of My Dad I Will Never Get Back. Because Of Him Serving And loosing Co-Workers/Friends It Destroyed Him. He Is Not In Physical Therapy For The Things That That Happened While Serving.

  • Junbrah

    Even though I do not have someone in my family that is part of the military, this article is very touching. People give up their daily lives for something much more dangerous. To do something like that you need to have to want it in your heart. To do something for the greater good of millions of people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abbigail.chaput Abbigail Chaput

    This story is very inspiring to me. Military runs in my family, and it’s always been something that I know I would like to be involved in. When I consider my future, I’d like to imagine myself in a position to make real change in the world. Knowing that people like this interviewee do more than just warfare, like “rebuilding roads and towns, resupplying schools, orphanages and hospitals, handing out medications and medical screenings all over the world” makes me all the more enthusiastic to eventually begin my own journey in the military. It means a lot to me to hear stories of people who have done this, and are doing this, living meaningful lives serving their country. It’s a big sacrifice, especially when serving in the military means giving up time with your children.

  • Gvalerio912

    I find this interview very relatable, at one point in my life I was seriously considering joining the Navy, after much time spent back and forth decided that It wouldn’t be a location that I would be able to thrive. Although to this day I find myself wondering how my life would have been different.

    I can also relate to her feelings of minority. Though out my childhood, currently, and in my planned future, my interests often put me into a minority. I’ve always been interested in math, science, robotics, and technology, thus from a young age I could be found building legos with the boys instead of Barbies. In my classes at school I would be one of 4 or 5 girls, and currently in my engineering classes in college, I am surrounded by my male counterparts, who often think less of me because of my gender.

    I cannot wait to rise up to the challenges I set myself just like this mother and marine. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/mariasjackson Maria Sandra Jackson

    I can relate to this story and understand how painful it is to leave your children behind during a deployment to Iraq. I have also deployded to Iraq for 11 months and know how it feels to leave your loved ones at home. The happiness I felt see my kids for the first time after you come back home. Just bring tears to my eyes!

  • Corey Pool

    My Father was in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam and has taken a lot of pride in his past work. I thank her and every man and woman who has fought to protect our lives in our home country. They are volunteering out of their own free will to put their one life they get on the line for everyone else’s. All men and women should be recognized like this mother who devotes her life to protecting the country and protecting her kids. I too know what it feels like to be away from your family. I am in college for the first time and have always been close to my family. Its hard adapting to not having the people you depend on and love 800 miles away. Although it is not as stressful and as hard as being in the marine corps, it is still difficult adapting to a new life. Thank you for your work and we are all very proud of what you do for us!

  • http://www.facebook.com/berto.jimenez.5 Berto Jimenez

    This article shows us the struggles that go through
    in order to help protect our country. I am very thankful for the people that
    are willing to put their lives on the line for our country. Without these
    people the Unite States would not be where they are today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maria.carattinirodriguez Maria Carattini Rodriguez

    I’m 34 years old and if I had the opportunity I would have join the military when I wanted. Unfortunately my mothers health was not to good and I had to put my goals aside to help her. This story brought tears to my eyes and how fortunate we are as citizens that there are people willing to sacrifice their lives so we can enjoy our liberties and security. Thank you everyone who has served and continue to serve. I’ am proud to be an American.

  • Ashleigh Edgerson

    As a 22 year old, I find this story to be very motivating. I graduate in December of this year and at times I find myself searching for a light at the end of the tunnel. The one that you hear about as a freshman. The light that will lead you to your future once you have that degree in hand. Ultimately, I found that my degree has nothing to do with my passion. It will be great to have it by my side and I loved the journey that I took to earn it, but it may or may not be the path that I take towards my future. I would like to start a non-profit organization to benefit young women of color, who want to find their light at the end of the tunnel. Young women who need guidance but not necessarily from an older women. I think that it is my generation’s responsibility to speak on behalf of the success of earning a degree. I think the reason that I even went to college was because my older sister attended. She loved it and I the fact that I had someone to look up to, helped with my educational decisions. Ultimately, I think it was my father that helped us both. He is a Marine as well. He went to a University and graduated with a degree, but then decided that, like his father, he would serve his country.It is his determination and ability to follow his heart at the last minute that gives me the strength to admit that I want to follow mine. After all these years he still gets choked up while watching the news or movies that portray what our service men and women go through to serve our country. I can only dream about having a job that requires that amount of passion day in and day out. I love that in this article she talks about how she learned everything from the Marine Corps., In some ways I feel the same way. Without my dad’s influence I don’t know where I would be. Thanks Dad!

  • Jeremy Tran

    My father is in the U.S. Navy and has been for over 20 years. So it’s safe to say that he has been deployed fairly often to foreign lands, including Iraq and an aircraft carrier that patrolled the Atlantic Ocean. Currently, he is in Afghanistan. Every single time he is deployed, my family is left sorrowful and praying it won’t be the last time we see him. Fortune has smiled upon him thankfully for he has returned unharmed every time. Although my mother wishes he never has to leave to such dangerous territories ever again, my father is not as adamant. He gladly serves his nation whenever and however it needs him. He defends the United States with pride knowing that whatever happens, he has made it a safer place. I truly admire the sacrifice my father makes every day to ensure the safety and freedom of our great country. And although I miss him and also wish he never had to leave, I know that he is protecting us and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He is my hero. I love you dad.

  • Becki Lodge Bailey

    I joined the Navy when my two oldest daughters were only 6 and 3. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made but I knew that it would help them and myself in the long run.

    I was a FireControlman during my five years of service and when I chose this job, I understood that it is a job that cannot be done on land. There aren’t many land-based weapons systems in the Navy. I was fully prepared to spend my time in the Navy onboard a ship and away from my daughters. Due to circumstances, I ended up never serving on a ship but at the school where I had done my training. After five years, I received a medical discharge.

    Those five years were some of the best and the worst of my life. I had to be away from daughters for boot camp and for my training. I knew that they were at an age where they needed me home but to help them have a better future, I had to enlist. I still stand by my decision to this day.

    Serving in the Navy, I received a lot of technical training and the opportunity to pursue my education thanks to the G.I. Bill. It is my hope that I have shown my children that sometimes the right decision is not always the easy decision.

  • http://www.facebook.com/selina.bell.737 Selina Bell

    I’m a military wife. Although I have been the one at home to
    keep things together, this article makes it a little easier to understand what
    my husband goes through being away while the kids grow up without him. I think
    everyone in uniform makes these sacrifices and do it with pride. It’s very hard
    to leave your family. The uniform is a source of pride, and every soldier knows
    that their sacrifice of time and lower pay means that there are 10 or more
    families who do not have to worry while they are on the job.

    I’m proud to support
    my husband and unit at home and deployed. It’s never easy on the soldier or the
    family when they leave, but we always seem to make it and times goes by faster
    than we expect it to. We have found a
    way to overlook the time apart and cherish the reunions over the years. This lady has found pride, peace, and happiness in life, and that is the most important thing. It’s important we have role models like her in uniform.

  • ortega88

    I am Hispanic also. Both me and my husband have served in the Army. We met in Iraq and spent 15 months there. I can relate to everything she said in the interview even though i did not have children at the time. I have two now and consider it truly hard to have to leave them behind for a year. It takes dedication and a strong will to manage that. You have to truly believe in your mission. There is something she didn’t mention though, and that is camaraderie. There is something about the relationships you build in the military. You just meet someone and you feel you have known them all your life and are willing to die for one another. I have not found a relationship like that outside of the military. It is a beautiful thing!

  • xiomara76

    Being a daughter of an Army Veteran and being a hispanic, I understand the need to make a difference and to feel the need to act out and defend our country. When I read her story and realize how modest and humble she answers her questions, I realize how God can take someone so simple and unique and give her the strenght to perservere. Where most mothers, would have stayed behind and have difficulties in leaving their children behind, This young lady had the courage to stand for what she believed in.
    Despite the challenges of being a minority and a female, she faced obstacles that not your evey day mother or female would face. It is commendable and honoring to realize that there are women like such that exist in this world and although there are few, still willing to fight for the cause of our nation, our dignity, peace and pride. Whether her job in the military may not have been that of combat there are risk we still face and more so being in the field that she is in.
    I wish her luck and many blesings for her and her family while waiting for her to come home safely.

  • gmatus77

    As
    a Hispanic I
    can only feel pride about this woman decision. We are a very thoughtful,
    hard working and loving community, that values the freedom and democracy in the
    United States; her bravery is only a small part of what she has showed so far
    because tenacity and leadership are the word that better describe her. In my personal opinion she has successfully applied
    incredible management skills that have helped her with her duties in the
    marines. She has had the opportunity to bring to the table her most valuable
    strengths among which, the most valuable for me is her work ethics and at the
    same time provide an outstanding service to this great Nation.

  • ToxiChick

    As a military spouse of 18 years, I find that this woman is brave for chosing this life for herself and children. It takes a special person to move and live so far from familiar family and friends. The military life is a hard one, and being a spouse, I did not sign that piece of paper but moved nonetheless. To volunteer to go overseas and be stationed in a combat zone is gutsy, especially for a woman in a very anti-women’s rights area such as Iraq is especially courageous. My hat’s off to this wonderful woman and her admirable dedication to country.

  • Enrique A.

    I am a Mexican-American, who also proudly served in the armed forces, for nine years. I joined the California Army National Guard when I was seventeen years old, in 1994. I signed up at a young age because I knew that I wanted to go to school but since my family could not afford to put me through college, the Army would be my ticket to get an education.

    After 9/11, I voluntarily asked to get deployed to Afghanistan but instead was deployed to Fort Lewis, Washington. I still remember how hard this was as I left behind my wife, daughter and unborn son, at the time I did not know that I would be stationed stateside. I did this, as I do not want for my kids to have to struggle in life and for the hardship that all American’s went through on the day of 9/11. I couldn’t take my mind off of my family and my little brother and cousins that also where in the service and would be getting deployed. I was lucky and got stationed stateside, while my cousin, who was a marine, was sent to combat in Iraq. He was KIA. We all miss him but he was out there doing what he believed was right. All I have to say that he is a Hero and God Bless him and all the service members of this beautiful country, the United States of America.

  • Leslie W.

    although i am not Hispanic-america her story is very moving. My spouse also changed his career path to enroll in the military and has spent most of the time in the same locations as her. Working with our military and family organizations i have spent many hours attempting to help the mothers who are serving and the families that are there to help raise the children while the mothers are gone. Her decision to help improve her life is motivating and helps assure me that even the little bit that I am doing does matter and does help the brave solders who are fighting for our country!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.h.rivera Jason Rivera

    Being a Hispanic-American, a current active duty service member, and coming from a large family, I empathize for and understand what it is like to struggle with the challenges of serving your country while simultaneously trying to maintain close ties with those whom you love. I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the 2010-2011 time-frame for one year and still clearly remember the mental and emotional challenges associated with maintaining focus within your deployed mission while at the same time trying to be supportive to your family with their challenges that they face at home.

    It is has never been easy to balance the roles of being a husband, son, brother, and Soldier, yet millions of us service members accept this challenge and millions more have deployed to foreign locations throughout the world in order to defend our country and all that in which we hold dear. As a Soldier and as a committed member of my family, I commend America’s mothers and fathers whom make the sacrifice of serving their countries by freely choosing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect the future of the United States and, consequently, the well-being of all us who call the United States of America “home”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/teresa.smalls.3 Teresa Smalls

    Sometimes you have to sacrifice things or someone you love to make a better life for yourself as well as for others.

  • http://twitter.com/alkohler1 Abbie Kohler

    Being an army brat myself, I can relate to the constant moving around every 2-3 years. That was my entire childhood to put it simply. But I have grown to become a very flexible and independent person because of it, which I wouldn’t change. Props to you Ma’am, keep up the good work and continue to spend as much time with your children as you can.

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