Tag Archives: Marine Corps

Happy Birthday Marines

Patrick Nichols_by Jude Eden 05

Combat: Testosterone Required (More Than Ever)

Are double standards and endemic discouragement of women to train hard to blame for the fact that women continue to wash out of the Marine Corps’ Officer Infantry Course? That is the charge of female Marine Lt. Sage Santangello in an article for the Washington Times. She says:

“I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines, if endurance and strength training started earlier than the current practice for people interested in going into the infantry, and if women were allowed a second try, as men are.”

Can she do a dozen pull-ups in all this gear? Photo c/o misguidedchildren.com

Can she do a dozen pull-ups in all this gear? Photo c/o misguidedchildren.com

I absolutely agree that the military should have one standard from the beginning, and it should be the men’s higher standards.  The tiers could remain – higher standards for combat military occupational specialties (MOSs) and support units, appropriately lower for the rest – but within each, women making the higher men’s standard.  It would be optimal for military efficiency and readiness (not to mention the most effective use of our tax dollars), but most women wouldn’t make it into the military in the first place. And although their caliber would be higher for having to pass and maintain higher standards, the ones who did make it would suffer far higher rates of injury (currently 4-10 times those of men, even on lowered standards) and attrition than we already do. We’d see women promoting more slowly, having shorter and fewer military careers, and the percentage serving would drop from 20% to 5% or less. The quality of women serving would be higher, the quantity would be lower, but the military would be stronger and more battle-ready.

While that would be the best thing for a country at war as we are with child-raping, honor-killing, suicide-bombing, amputation-happy savages, the problem is that feminists won’t tolerate it. Mainly through the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), quotas for women have been imposed on the military for sixty years. And every time jobs have been opened to them, the standards have been lowered to accommodate their lesser physical capabilities and to reduce their high rates of injury. (Say, if those military men are such thugs, such brutes, such women-hating monsters, how come they’ve accommodated women this way since 1948? Weird.) So the 2-person (one daren’t call it 2-man) stretcher-carry is now a 4-person stretcher-carry, women don’t have to do the pull-ups men do, throw a grenade as far, run as fast, scale the wall without steps, and on and on. Between lower standards for women and political correctness that sees making men out of boys as abuse, the standards are de facto lower for all.

Breaking ground. Fallujah, Iraq 2005. © Jude Eden

Breaking ground. Fallujah, Iraq 2005.   © Jude Eden

Any testing to evaluate women’s strength, how they respond to types of physical training, or qualifying tests to determine job suitability have been defunded, abandoned, or, when the results show that women don’t qualify for the heavy-lifting jobs that feminists want them to occupy, discredited. One example is the Military Enlistment Physical Strength Capacity Test (MEPSCAT). It was initially developed to address a problem brought to light by the military itself: Although they were filling their quotas, 85% of women filling the slots couldn’t do what the jobs required. As Stephanie Gutmann writes in The Kinder, Gentler Military, research scientists

“…categorized all Army jobs as light, heavy, or very heavy, and then devised standard physical requirements – expressed as low, medium, high – with which to separate applicants for a particular MOS. They then conducted preliminary tests to see if soldiers in the field, already out there in assigned jobs, were matched with an appropriate MOS. ‘The results,’ as the Army Times put it, ‘did not bode well for women.’ While most men exceeded the high and medium standards for aerobic capacity,’ the paper reported, ‘no woman met the high standard and very few the medium. In other words, by the proposed test’s standards, all of the men were qualified for their jobs in heavy-lifting specialties but fewer than 15 percent of the women.’”[1]

Military readiness? Hardly. The reaction from a member of DACOWITS? “The Army is a male-oriented institution and officials are resistant to changes that will allow women to be fully utilized.” Testing showed the obvious, women couldn’t do the heavy lifting in jobs where they were placed via quotas, so the data had to be buried. The MEPSCAT was never implemented as a way to match recruits to appropriate jobs, even though that makes all the sense in the world to anyone but feminists and their lackeys at the Pentagon.

Lt. Santangello has a similarly feminist angle on why she was powerless to supplement her own training to prepare for the OIC: “Women aren’t encouraged to establish the same mental toughness as men — rather, they’re told that they can’t compete. Men, meanwhile, are encouraged to perceive women as weak.” It’s the male-dominated culture, stupid.

Why does a strong young college hockey player with the guts to join the Marines and the ability to become an officer suddenly wilt at negativity from anyone? Is that the attitude that got her through Officer Candidate’s School? Why would such a tough cookie listen to anyone who told her she couldn’t compete? Why wouldn’t she use it, as so many athletes do, to fuel her ambition to prove them wrong? Herein lies the usual riddle of feminist dogma: Women are as strong as men, but women are victims of men. It’s garbage. Advocates for women in combat are desperate to explain away the natural ability differences between the sexes.

I only served a four-year term in the Marines, but in that time (2004-2008) no one ever told me I couldn’t compete because I was a woman. Nor are men encouraged to perceive women as weak. If anything, their encouraged, at peril of losing their careers, to make themselves believe the lie that women are their physical equals. Today, we all are. Point out the obvious and you’re charged with waging the “war on women.” In my experience, feminism is so prevalent in the military that men trip over themselves trying to ensure they don’t offend. They can’t afford to even think the truth. Women are not as strong and athletic as strong, athletic men. That is why women, even very athletic women, are failing OIC. That is why women aren’t competing with men in professional football, wrestling, or mixed martial arts. It doesn’t mean women are inferior human souls, nor does it mean there is no place for women in the military. It means it makes total logical sense for many MOSs, especially the combat units, to remain closed to women.

Hey Girl, forget your pack?  Photo c/o Marine Corps Times

Hey Girl, forget your pack? Photo c/o Marine Corps Times

Equal training standards would indeed put women in better stead. It’s hard to take pride in the hollow affirmations that we’re doing everything that men are when we know we’re held to a lower standard. It would be better for us as women serving, better for the men with whom we serve, and above all better for a winning military. However, women’s failure to make these kinds of standards is not just for a lack of training. For example, the women going through Marine Corps boot camp throughout 2013 were being trained to achieve the men’s minimum of three pull-ups. They were trained to pass the test, yet 55% of them couldn’t make that minimum. 99% of male recruits can, whether or not they were particularly athletic before shipping off.

When I decided to join the Marines, I already worked out regularly. I had been jogging and hitting the gym since my teens, my sport was martial arts. To prepare for the Marines, I worked out harder and more often. No one had to tell me to, I knew my own weaknesses. If I made it to graduation, I didn’t want to let down the Marines to my left and my right. Once I hit the fleet, despite developing knee problems, I worked out more often than anyone in my platoon to maintain a first-class PFT and perform anything else that was demanded. The guys could eat fast food daily, smoke and drink, then run 6-minute miles. Meanwhile I ate clean and mixed weight training and Semper Fit classes to supplement our regular PT schedule. I envied the guys’ natural ability and found their metabolism particularly infuriating. I may have had more to overcome than some of my female peers, but my experience is not singular. To complete the same physically demanding task, a woman expends much more effort than a man. His units of work effort are worth many of hers, and he will be able to maintain a demanding, arduous level of performance for far longer than she in both the short and long term. Double standards didn’t create this reality, and women training harder won’t change it.

In his book, Coed Combat, Kinsley Brown, a law professor whose graduate work includes physical anthropology, points out that,

When males and females both start out in good physical condition, women gain less than men from further conditioning, so that the gap between the sexes actually increases. A study of male and female cadets at West Point, who all started out in relatively good condition, found that although women’s upper body strength was initially 66 percent of men’s, by the end of their first two years, it had dropped below 61 percent…Sex differences in physical performance are here to stay. As Constance Holden observed in Science magazine, the male advantage in athletics will endure, due to men’s ‘steady supply of a performance-enhancing drug that will never be banned: endogenous testosterone.’ [emphasis in the original][2]

img6503p124 Army Lieutenant Colonel William Gregor, who taught at West Point, also compared the performances of male and female cadets.

“Gregor found that the upper fifth of women achieved scores on the test equivalent to the bottom fifth of men, but even with equivalent scores, the men and the women were not physical equals: ‘The women who achieved this level of fitness are unusual. They are confident, they are talented, but they are limited in their potential relative to men. The men, in contrast, have the potential to do much better…APFT scores do not measure relative strength or performance [and are therefore] the kindest to the woman, because she works only against her own weight. If we were to add a load, the gap between males and females would widen. If we were to reinstate the 40-yard man-carry that was part of readiness 20 years ago, we would find far fewer women achieving passing scores using the male tables.’ Gregor also testified that a man is more likely to be able to meet minimum standards later in his career, whereas a woman has nowhere to go but down, and rapidly as she ages.”[3]

www.anatomy4sculptors.comFemales can train as hard as we like, and we may increase strength, stamina, and fitness. But our increased fitness still won’t put us on par with that of the men who are training to their utmost, like men in combat units. No matter how widespread feminism becomes, our bones will always be lighter than men’s, more vulnerable to breaks and fractures. Our aerobic capacity will still be 20-40% less, and we’ll still be less able to bear heavy gear at a hard-pounding run. Can we scale the eight-foot wall in full combat load? No steps are provided to give women a boost in the heat of battle like they are in coed military boot camps (and even the MC’s Officer Candidate’s School). Santangello boasts that she got 16 pull-ups on her last physical fitness test. That’s excellent, but PFT’s are done in a t-shirt and shorts. Can we do a dozen pull-ups in full combat gear? That’s just one of many requirements in the OIC combat endurance test. Can we carry another man on our back with both our full combat load and his? These differences in ability are deal-breakers in combat. The standards are not arbitrary. They’re designed to keep the weak out, because accommodating the weak means lives lost and mission failure. This is not just competitive sports, this is war. Infantry officers must not only be educated, brave, and highly athletic. They must be better at everything than all their men because Marine officers lead from the front. Hence their motto: Ductus Exemplo, leadership by example. Which of these women is better than an entire infantry platoon?

Today, advocates for women in combat, primarily civilian feminists and a handful of feminist officers, are doing everything they can to see that the standards are lowered once more to accommodate women. Hence, reservist Army Colonel Ellen Haring, one of the women suing to open combat units to women, wants the OIC’s combat endurance test thrown out (so tries to discredit it as merely an initiation rite). The females who made it through the Marine Corps’ enlisted School of Infantry were still rated on a double standard for the combat fitness test, a fact dutifully and deliberately omitted by those reporting breathlessly: “Women Pass Infantry Training!” (How will that help them when they’re actually in combat, to have passed on a lower standard?) And in the announcement of the WIC policy last year, General Dempsey said, “[I]f we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?” We all know where this is going, and it will be catastrophic for all: women and men on the front lines, our ability to win wars, and the country and loved one’s we’re protecting.

Finally, Lt. Santangello’s contention that women are unfairly barred from a second chance at OIC is deliberately misleading. The only officers who get a chance to remediate and try the course again are those slated for an infantry unit, as Marine Lt. Emma Stokein explains in a recent piece, The Mission Goes First. Since combat units are still closed to women, they don’t get a second try because this delays the training for their assigned MOS and unfairly pushes behind other Marines waiting their turn. As a Marine and officer, Santangello knew this when she wrote her article, so she had no business calling it discrimination. Letting her try the course again, which the commandant of the Marine Corps did after she published, was applying a double standard. She asks that the rules and standards be ignored and that she get special treatment because she’s a woman. That’s quite a start for an officer claiming to want equal treatment, and wanting to lead men in combat. Does she want men to follow her example? Once she’s head of a platoon, will she expect her men(and women) to follow her example?

[1] Stephanie Gutman, The Kinder, Gentler Military. New York: Scribner, 2000.

[2] Kingsley Brown, Coed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight The Nation’s Wars; New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

[3] Brian Mitchell, Women in the Military: Flirting With Disaster; Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998.

The author before heading out on convoy to checkpoint duty, Fallujah, 2005.

The author before heading out on convoy to checkpoint duty, Fallujah, 2005.

Between Feminism and Gun Control, Women Are Screwed

Mid-20th century Feminism has taught us that women don’t need men, that we can do anything men can do from business to close combat, that taking on the worst behavior of promiscuous men is desirable, and that we can avoid the physical and emotional consequences that result.  Chivalry is long since dead: Feminism declared it the relic of an oppressive patriarchal society rather than what it was: a standard that held women up in order to protect them.  And they have convinced themselves that any differences between the sexes exist because they have been artificially imposed by men.  Meanwhile men have been emasculated and fathers relegated to mere sperm donors.


Michelle Rodriguez in “SWAT.”

Has anyone noticed all the heroines in our films and television shows in recent years?  No longer are chivalrous men protecting vulnerable women.  From Alias to La Femme Nikita to any female-centric film you can name, the women are portrayed as fighting machines (with guns), often rescuing their male counterparts.  You know these films.  Michelle Rodriguez plays the same exact cardboard badass in so many of them.  They take down fighting man after fighting man.  But this is all fiction – take it from a female black belt and Iraq War veteran.  And don’t get me started on that twig LeeLee Sobieski on NYC22 playing a veteran who can take down street thugs.  The reality is that even Rhonda Rousey isn’t put in the ring with male fighters.

If women could do the same things men can, there wouldn’t be separate standards for them in police work, firefighting, and the military, or as is true in some cases, lower standards for both sexes that women can pass.  Most women can’t wield the fire hose, carry a 200-lb man off the battlefield, or take down a male criminal.  The last example was proved just recently when a female cop was overpowered by a criminal who had been taken into custody.  He stole her gun and three cops were shot.

Yes, some women are stronger than some men, but they are never stronger than strong men, and a woman without a weapon is no match for a man who wants to do her harm, even if she knows how to fight.  I earned that black belt, I became a Marine, I went to the combat zone.  But I also got cancer, and what happens when you can no longer physically fight?  What if you don’t want to fight?  How many women or moms, married or not, have time to train to become proficient fighters to be ready for that one random time the criminal comes at them in the parking lot?  You need to be able to own a weapon for self-defense if you choose.  You need to be able to nullify the threat before it comes down to hand-to-hand combat.

RhondaRouseyNo matter how much the Feminists rail, and no matter how many times Hollywood portrays heroic fighting women, women are the weaker sex.  This doesn’t mean lesser, it just means physically weaker and that’s a fact no amount of affirmative action or double standards can change.  Leave it to hypocritical liberals and feminists to ignore scientific reality in favor of the brave new world they want to force into existence.  You would think that girl-power philosophy would extend to empowering women to protect ourselves with any weapon available, especially after teaching us for so long that we don’t need men.  But no, the hypocrisy is ubiquitous.  Women don’t need men and they don’t need weapons either.  Feminism thus fails women.

Existing and new gun control laws coupled with Feminist ideals just means that we all have to become fighters, whether we want to or not. A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle until a strong man decides to take advantage of her and/or her children.  For 50 years now we’ve been taught that government will fill that void, but of course, the police usually come only come after a crime has been committed.  And now the cop might be some chick who made it on a double standard who gets overpowered by the criminal in your home.  Without a strong man to provide for and protect her, she not only must be a bread-winner, she must be a black belt – unless she can arm herself for protection.  Guns are the real equalizer between the sexes.


The Road Back From Thyroid Cancer

Written by request for www.crossfitwilmington.com

I was elated when I made it through Marine Corps boot camp.  I’d worked out hard to get ready because I’m not particularly athletic, though I’ve always been active – jogging, martial arts, yoga, walking, swimming.  At my best I ran an 8.5 minute mile.  But I made it through and did well.  A year into the Marines I started to notice how much harder I had to train to maintain the standards, and not just compared to the men.  I worked out more than anyone in my platoon and ate better by far.  Earlier in life I’d been a vegan for 5 years, so I was used to eating very healthfully.

But no matter how much I trained, how healthy my lifestyle, I seemed to be slowing down.  No matter how much I ran, the runs got harder.  No matter how much I exercised, I couldn’t get stronger.  At 28, I managed the first class standards only because I qualified as old for a Marine!  It was after returning from deployment that I really started to wonder why I was having to work so hard with no results, and why I was so tired all the time.  I didn’t know it then that my Thyroid was off.

Your thyroid is your body’s compass and regulator.  The hormones it releases affect nearly every part of your body – brain, muscles, hair, skin and metabolism.  If it’s underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones, your body slows down and you have symptoms like fatigue, depression, weight gain, and more.  Without medication you’ll just slow down to nothing.  If it’s overactive and produces too much, you tend to lose weight, become hyperactive, can’t sleep, get the shakes, sweats and anxiety and the like.  Needless to say, if this organ isn’t working correctly your whole body is off no matter how healthy your lifestyle.

It turned out that not only was my thyroid underactive (called Hashimoto’s thyroid disease), but I had two forms of cancer, one in each gland.  The good thing about thyroid cancer is that it’s “the most survivable cancer.”  Yay!  Another good thing is that chemo isn’t required, just surgery and ‘radio iodine ablation’ which is a type of radiation therapy.  Unfortunately it was not possible to remove the cancers without removing both thyroid glands, so there went my body’s compass, damaged as it was.

Bugger that a healthy lifestyle did nothing to curtail my odds, but I was very optimistic.  I’d survived the Marines, deployment, and more, I could surely come back from the most survivable cancer.  I was glad to have the support of my husband and family helping me through it.

Fast forward 4 years, last month I finished my inactive reserve status and have remained cancer free.  YAY!  Getting the cancer out was just one leg up the hill as it turned out.  Finding the balance of the right medication levels has been a real challenge and has taken years.  Creating a new balance after the Marines has had its own challenges, not the least of which is going from training most of the time to – ahhh!  A desk job.  Don’t get me wrong, my job is good and I’m grateful I have it, but sitting at the desk you can keep!

These days my focus is on regaining strength and power, and a friend introduced me to Crossfit.  I’m a light-weight these days, but I figure I win if I complete what they tell me to do, just like boot camp only friendly!  Here’s to what makes you stronger!

Decriers of Pee

We train, we train, we train.  Then we finally get to the combat zone.  We make contact with the enemy and…in the case of a couple of warfighters, we pee.  We show our contempt for the enemy so worthy of it.  They, after all, vow the destruction of the bastion of freedom, the United States, and have a fetish for rape, torture and stoning.

To hear Hillary Clinton decry their behavior you would think she was talking about someone who massacred 45 unarmed people at Fort Hood while screaming “Allu akhbar!!!”  You would think she was calling for a full investigation that would turn up, say, how Major Hassan had a long record of pushing Islam and jihad; how no one who could have flagged him would dare because they’d be branded a racist.

The whole country decries these Marines who, though acting in poor taste, had just done their duty by killing the enemy who has no regard for the Geneva conventions or Rules of Engagement whatsoever.  Decriers who said nothing but “we can’t rush to judgment” on violent extremist murderer Nidal Hassan.

Well I deployed to Iraq, and my service there made a difference to those women and children and citizens who were used to being terrorized by Sadaam and his regime.

But why should I fight, why should anyone who’s willing to give their life for this country do so when this is what they’re going to get?

Every single movie or show that portrays the Iraq war depicts psychotics and wimps – from “Brothers” to you name it.  The only movie that depicts Marines as they are in battle was “Battle: Los Angeles” and in that the enemy were aliens.  There’s a double standard for women, but the only good movie that depicts female Marines as decent, moral fighters is “The Marine” which is a propaganda piece against DADT.  The NCIS show that has the ex-rapper playing the scholar of Islam, telling all the violent Muslim perps that they’re not following the true Islam, and where the Marines are usually the criminals in the cases.

We face the modern Nazis of our time, Muslim extremists and their defenders, the Liberal Left.  They advocate for non-citizens more than citizens, criminals more than those who obey the law.   Their primary weapons political correctness and race-baiting.  The libertarians tell us Sharia can’t exist here if we stick to the Constitution, while we have a Jihadist in our local jail here in NHC who put out 2 $5000 hits on witnesses against him.  Will the libertarians wait for the nice local Jihadist to abide by the Constitution and not plan murder?  Why should any cop or sheriff fight for what’s right?  Why should they protect you and me when if they show a little too much zeal, empty two magazines instead of one, they’ll have a public media lynching?

Who should stand up and fight the Nazis of our time if we’re just going to be criminalized for it while terrorist acts of violence get defended and swept under the rug?


I’m a Marine and Iraq War Veteran.  I’ve been called a murderer, rapist and dumb by the likes of Jack Murtha and John Kerry.  I’ve been told by Harry Reid that the war is lost while my fellow Marines and me drastically reduced the amount of violence in Iraq while increasing the availability of electricity, water, medical help and schools.  Now Obama’s telling me that we’re getting out of Iraq without victory.  Try to convince me that the lives and blood that my brothers and sisters sacrificed is not in vain.  Convince me that all those women and children we helped by combatting violent suicide bombers are not now in grave danger.  Tell me all those resources and schools that were built after we took out Sadaam are not going to be destroyed.  Tell me that violence is not going to increase because the Americans who were will to fight for them and ourselves are now leaving.

I’m a cancer survivor.  I’ve watched my medical costs double every year since 2008.  The expensive scans I’m supposed to have every year to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned become more and more out of reach.  I’m lucky to still have a job, but I’m still working at the rate I started at years ago while expenses like these keep going up.  And now you’re going to tell me that I may not really need that scan, and you’re going to take that decision out of my hands.  The government will decide whether they can afford me that scan, and then tell me whether I need it or not.

I’m the wife of a legal immigrant.  Tell me that while my husband – who’s actually here for all the right reasons and is working through the citizenship process, who loves this country, taught himself English and who’s working his butt off, should go to the back of the line while you thumb your nose at him for being sucker enough to go through that legal process.  Convince me that checking someone’s driver’s license is somehow discriminatory if the driver looks Hispanic.  I have to hand over my license when I’m pulled over, so do you pal.  It’s not discrimination that you have to abide by the laws of this country, and pay the consequences if you’re breaking them.

I’m a home owner who’s lost $50,000 on the value of my house since we bought it in early 2008.  Thanks Frank-Dodd.   Go ahead.  Convince me it’s all Bush’s fault.

I’m an independent free and outspoken woman.  Tell me Muslims in this country are harmless when they don’t permit women to even drive in their own countries, when they rape women and then imprison or kill them for having been raped, where they stone women and women have no rights.  Tell me you’re a good feminist and advocating for a mosque at Ground Zero is a good thing.  Equality under the law is paramount in America, and women fought so hard for representation and protection in this country.  It is what the women of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan wish they had.  Tell me how diverse you feel as you advocate for gay marriage and also don’t want Muslims to be discriminated against, while they kill people for being gay.

I’m also a Jew.  That’s me Ahmadinejad and all the Muslims want to “push into the sea.” That’s my blood they want to wash their hands in, my skull they want to crush, that ‘religion of peace.’  And who do you think is next, once they’re done exterminating all us Jews?  You, infidel.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t happen to be Jewish.  You’re a non-believer, there’s no place for you and you’re next on the destruction list.

We’re struggling against big-government liberals and spineless Republicans alike.  Bad policy and weak opposition have gotten us into the black hole we’re in today.  This is the cost of electing the wrong people to represent us.  It’s the cost of not fighting back, of wimping out against liberal attacks with the excuse that ‘we can’t go there.’  McCain refused to attack Obama on his history, his dangerous and violent associations like terrorist Bill Ayers and racist violence advocator Jeremiah Wright.  He could have had a spine, but he chose not to.  We see what liberals are willing to do – anything in their power, true or false, to destroy conservatives.  We see what happens when they win.   We’re all poorer, we’re less free, we have less free speech and we’re not allowed to talk about what threatens us, we’ve lost our jobs, our homes, our savings.  We’re losing our families, our children can’t read.  Islamofascists are doing everything they can to permeate the globe and make themselves the next Master Race.

The stakes are high, the risks are great, but if we are going to survive we have to stop pussy-footing around bad liberal policy, we have to crush the opposition.  Big-government liberal policies have failed every time.  We have every justification to try Conservative solutions for once.  Bad liberal foreign policy has rendered the Middle East more unstable than it’s ever been, and us less prepared to deal with it.  Bad liberal economic policy has rendered us poorer than ever, has put more of us out of work and out of our homes.  Why should we continue to bother compromising with liberals who are always wrong?  We must defeat them, or we’ll never get out of this black hole.

Reflections on the Marine Corps in the 3rd Year


What’s a gal like you doing in a place like this?  It sounds facetious, but I get asked this all the time.  When I enlisted in the Marine Corps three and a half years ago, I was 26, a newlywed, and had been living pretty well.  A full-time product and portrait  photographer, working and performing with other artists and musicians, living in a house by the sea…I had it pretty good and I was a total bohemian.  Unbelievably to many, a conservative bohemian.  I was living in New York after photography school when the Towers were attacked.  I knew immediately that this meant war.  I believe in fighting the violent jihadists that want to dominate the world.  But it was another couple of years before I joined the Marines.  By the time I joined I was tired of my own crowd of anti-war liberals, the bulk of my compatriots in the art and music worlds.  I wanted to be a part of a truly diverse organization, one that doesn’t have to use quotas to get people of every color, creed, and background (although, being an arm of the government, they do have some imposed quotas).  I wanted to use more than just a modicum of my capabilities on a given day and I wanted to stretch my limits.  Most of all, I wanted to contribute to the world around me, and be a part of what I see as an institution that makes a difference for the better.  What I got was that and more.

I chose the Marines because it was by well-deserved reputation the most difficult.  I wanted a place where more was demanded of me, more was expected of me.  I wanted to be around other people who wanted the same challenges.  I wanted to deploy and see the war in Iraq with my own eyes, to help the women and children there who enjoy so little freedom and prosperity compared to us in free countries.  I enlisted rather than becoming an officer because I thought it would make me a more well-rounded leader.

I’ve met people I never would have had reason to meet, been to places I wouldn’t have been able to go, worked through situations I would not have thought possible, and benefited in ways I could not have anticipated.  It has humbled and strengthened me.

My deployment to Fallujah in 2005 was the most rewarding experience I’ve had.  I’m a data dink, 0651, and we supported communications out there, but I was also assigned to stand female checkpoint duty on the outskirts of the city with several other females from different units.  I was able to have basic conversation with the Iraqis with the rudimentary Arabic class offered by the Marine Corps.  Some women were timid, others indifferent, many delightful.  Those who know some English are very proud of the fact.  At first, not knowing what to expect I was stunned by those who would say, “You are our sister, please be careful,” or “We are glad you’re here,” or simply “God bless you,” kissing our cheeks.  Some children, seeing us in all our very alien-looking gear would cry at the site of us.  Others would ask us for things, or proudly hold out their hands and brandish the one English phrase they knew: “Mista! Mista!  Chocolate!”

Working with the Infantry Marines was also a big part of this duty.  These men truly have the toughest job and the toughest living conditions.  They are dedicated to each other and to their families, and bear the difficulties with a great strength that often goes unrecognized by the majority.  In addition to their regular duties at the checkpoints, they made sure we had everything we needed.  They were even our big-brothers-on-call around the the Iraqi Police and Army with whom we worked daily – all of whom want to marry us.  It didn’t seem to matter how many stories I made up (in my novice Arabic) about having a gaggle children, two of whom were red-headed, blue-eyed twin boys.  No amount of detail convinced them I was unavailable.

It hasn’t been easy.  In fact, it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  The Marine Corps is not for the faint of heart.  It is hard on the body, it’s challenging for the will and the ego, and it’s very hard on marriage and relationships.  Joining up is an easy decision to make, but not as easy to live with.

I’m blessed with a strong and loving family, and a wonderful husband who’s just as stubborn as I am.


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