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Marine and mother leaves office life to fight in Iraq

Mexican MarineThis 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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  • Absolutely great article!

    I can relate to this story a lot, especially from serving in the United States military as well. Especially being from a Mexican-American background, you take pride in everything you do. I would also have to say that within the article, the perception that individuals have on military members, that all we know is “war”, is quite false. Being in the military teaches everything that goes above and beyond life.

    Just like it was stated in the article, you learn how to deal with situations under pressure, while working and constantly traveling. I would definitely be able to relate to that, along with the fact that, I was the same young 17 year old kid just like her, whom was unsure of what he wanted.

    Additionally, joining the military taught me how to appreciate everything, every opportunity, and everyone in life. You don’t realize how good you may have at, compared to when you visit other countries and see what type of living conditions they may be living in.

    In the article, the young lady states about “loving the structure and the order of the military”, which is another relation which I can apply to my daily life. I constantly love being organized and having a set schedule and structure of what I’m going to accomplish for the day.

    In fact, I would have to also agree and relate to the fact that “if you work hard and do your best at what you do, people will notice and many doors will open up.”, this quote is what I truly lived by on daily basis. It is essential to work hard everyday, remain humble, and never forget where you came from.

  • I can relate to this story because I have a cousin who is also a Marine. He has been moving around the world and back at home we barely see him. He got married and had a baby with her wife, but he is still constantly moving.
    I always try to show him respect and I also remind him that us, the civilians are thankful for his service and that back at home we are proud to say that we have a Marine in our family.

  • I was a US Navy sailor who serves 4 and a half years as a Master at arms, or Military Police by definition. I can relate on several aspect but the main reason I join was to better my financial situation to allow me to finish my education I am pursuing right now. I come from a low socioeconomic status family so I at the time of my graduation and entry to my undergraduate studies. I was in a position where even if I pursue and finish my degree at the time, I would still be stuck in the status I began I pursue the military, which is a option I found most of my fellow colleagues who joined in the first place. Stress wise, beside a few career field, I can state the military is within the top 10 nationwide. The military is a very stressful, unappreciated career with a very low income to boot. Job fulfillment wise, I would say the military is not a field that makes really shine in that aspect. But I was able to push myself through it, for my dream of obtaining my degree was the goal that help me strive to finish my contract, I pursue my education while I was in and because of that, within a year of completing it. Do I regret it, on some aspect yes, not job is perfect especially the military but sometime you have to do whatever is required, to achieve whatever goal you set out for yourself in this case, it was my education.

  • Being a son of an army father, I can relate to you so much. My father has served in Indian army for 24 years. He spent 5-6 years in a disputed area (India-Pakistan border). Throughout these years, I was always in fear if I would see him again or not, mainly during 1999 war with Pakistan.

    I did ask him once that why he joined military? His reply was similar to you:) He said, ” I was not sure what I wanted to do back then and also, school was just not for me. ”

    Now, he lives with me and we spend loads of time together. It saddens me to acknowledge that I saw him for few weeks in year for 24 years, Much of my childhood was without him.

    -Jagraj

  • Being a military person myself and single mother I can relate to this story on a large scale. It is not easy to pack up your whole life every few years, as well as your childs, to move to a destination not of your choice. New homes, schools, communities, and friends must always be found. It takes a strong willed person to do this and be able to perform their stressful jobs on a top notch scale. I commend this marine and all service members (past, present and future) and also thank them for their selfless giving.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.