Reflecting on my life, I ask myself: What will be your legacy? I think back to a brief part of my life, when I had the opportunity to serve my country with the United State Marine Corps. Stepping on the yellow footprints at the Marine Crops Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, CA, I had no idea on how making the transition from a civilian to Marine would be significant in continuing the legacy of military service within my family. My great-grandfather served in the World War II, my grandfather served in the Vietnam, my father did a short time in the Marines during the Desert Storm era, and there I stood on that California, summer morning in June of 2007, hoping to make my mark in my family tree.
Once I finished boot camp, I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as a Warehouse Clerk with 2D Tank Battalion, 2D Marine Division. During the period of my occupational training there, I learned more about the history of minorities in the Marines. For example, the Marine Corps was the last branch that allowed non-whites to enlist in this branch. Additionally, training for Blacks during the time of segregation was conducted at Montford Point, North Carolina. (Source) Every time I put on the uniform, I was always honored to embody the legacy of those fought and built upon what the Marine Corps is today.
“Diversity is imperative to sustainability and growth – no matter the obstacles.”
When it came down to the mission, as Marines we didn’t see black, white, brown, etc. You were green and were expected to successfully execute the job that was ahead of you with others by your side.
One of the many stories I can vividly recall was helping a young Marine when he needed to acquire his driver’s license. He was 20 years old and was from New York City, New York. He had never needed one and was eager to have one to drive military vehicles. We took a Friday off and I helped him in his preparation for the written/driving tests. He was extremely anxious, and I provided him with encouragement by saying, “if you can become a Marine, you can do anything you put your mind to.” Unfortunately, he didn’t pass his first time around, but he practiced (with supervision) and was eventually able to pass. He learned in that moment that failure is a part of the process, and you must grow from your experiences (as we all do).
As I finished my enlistment, I was determined to have clarity in my future direction. I wanted to continue instilling a legacy by going to college. Specifically, I wanted my younger siblings (since I’m the oldest) to see my journey as I obtained my associate, bachelors, and master’s degree. Looking back to a little more than a decade, I’m glad I made that decision. I’m extremely proud of all three of my younger siblings. My younger brother started college very briefly and began a career in the Air Force and plans on staying until retirement. My sister received her degree in Finance and is traveling the world whenever she can. My youngest brother is going for welding and plans on continuing his education in engineering. I can say that my legacy for being a lifelong learner continues to be reflected with them.
I am reminded every November that service is a huge part of who I am. Being a Marine is a title that is not an easy feat to earn. 12 weeks of early mornings, constant screaming, and being challenged physically and mentally from the time you enter training. The foundations of the Marine Corps connected to my value system and still embodies how I live my life today. Once a Marine, always a Marine hold true whether you’re in uniform; or have finished your enlistment time. Being called to service isn’t a job, but more about who you are within your value system which aligns perfectly to Ministry of Service with our VOA core values. I can serve fellow veterans with VOA based on my position as a healthcare navigator.
“I’m honored everyday when I walk through doors to give veterans hope when the challenges are there. In the military, there is a phrase noted as “I got your six.” Being able to establish integrity, respect, and trust is at the heart of what we do. My legacy continues with my time here at VOA.”