While I am not in the United States Marine Corps, I would like to steal a piece from the Rifleman's Creed to succinctly explain who I am, why I serve, what I've learned and the support system that allows me to serve my country.
'This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine... It is my life.' My M4:
Military: In 1997, I had a frank conversation with my Dad when I was a senior in high school. He said, "Sonie, I know you want to go to college, I can't pay for it, there is always the Army." Who knew that small sentence would change the rest of my life. Thanks Dad!
I immediately began researching and saw that I could join the Army band doing something I loved. I met with a recruiter and scheduled an audition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. I didn't make the initial cut and was told to come back for a second audition after I worked on my scales. To this day I am glad I messed up that audition because it led to me join the Army Reserves, attend my dream college, Brigham Young University, receive an active duty commission as an Engineer Officer and then decide to tell the Army's Story by choosing to become a Public Affairs Officer.
I wasn't obligated to go active duty, I wasn't obligated to stay in after four years so what made me decide this was my chosen career for the next 20 years? The answer is simple, my brothers and sisters in arms. Their examples, hard work and passion to accomplish the mission is unmatched. They are brave, kind, genuine and understand the importance of freedom.
In the Army Reserves, I learned the importance of teamwork and that interpersonal relationships matter when you need to get the mission done.
In the 84th Engineer Battalion, I learned the importance of caring for my Soldiers and their Families. They were all an integral part of the Never Daunted team who made us successful when we were asked to complete two back to back deployments to Iraq.
In the 18th Engineer Brigade, I learned how empowering your subordinates to take charge and trusting their decisions is the best solution to any complex problem like managing all military construction in Northern Iraq as a Capt. working in a billet normally filled by a Lt. Col.
In the 15th Engineer Battalion, I learned that a commander's role is vital to mission accomplishment and at the end of the day they are responsible for the good, the bad and the ugly within their organization. I was super fortunate to have 99% good to include another successful deployment to Kuwait.
Now as a Public Affairs Officer, I have the privilege of telling the Army's story. I am honored to share my love for the Army and its Soldiers by highlighting their accomplishments with the American people.
I continue to serve due to my loyalty to the organization, and its people. I met some of the most selfless people in the world, gained amazing managerial skills, traveled the world, and owe nothing for my college degrees. An organization that takes care of me, my family and has given me amazing experiences is one that deserves my loyalty.
Mormon: Every life changing decision I have ever made wasn't done alone. In all humility and sincerity I believe in a Heavenly Father who derived a moral code that gives my life significance and purpose. I would not be who I am without my faith. It is a driving force in my life and has helped me to become a successful military officer.
Marriage: I would also not be where I am without the support of my husband. We met as Privates at Fort Lee, Virginia while attending training. He has always been my greatest cheerleader, my confidant, my sounding board, my uniform inspector and my best friend. Thank you for being you, following me all over the world in the pursuit of my career, and encouraging me when times were rough. I love this Army life we have made together.
Mom: Being a woman in the military requires some tough decisions and balancing work and family obligations is one of them. There may be nights I don't get to tuck in my son, or I may miss important life events due to deployment but one thing rings true, I have never been more proud be called a "Soldier" by anyone else.
To see how proud my son is of my service to our great nation when he excitedly exclaimed to random strangers that "My Mommy is a Soldier," when we toured Arlington National Cemetery on Veteran's Day last year or when he tells me he wants to be a Soldier when he grows up. To see the joys, and opportunities freedoms brings to him makes me proud to serve our country even more and reaffirms that while leaving him is one of the hardest things I am asked to do, I will do it to protect his freedom and the freedom of others.