Thriving on excellence, encouragement and teaching others to do their finest, this United States Marine of nine years, now a veteran mentor at the Citrus College Veterans Center, is learning that the transformation from Marine back into civilian is harder than expected.
Mayra Marchington, 30, was raised in Los Angeles. After graduating high school in 2000, she attended University of California Santa Cruz.
On Sept 11, 2001, Marchington, along with millions of others, was devastated by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers.
“If there is something I can do, I want to do it,” Marchington said about her motivation to join the Marines. “In my mind, if I was going to do this I was going to [join] the most challenging [branch], not to say that the other branches aren’t [hard],” Marchington said.
“But the Marine [Corps] is definitely a challenge, especially for a woman.” So in May of 2002 Marchington enlisted.
Marchington’s sister, Brenda Vera, 22, recollects the memory of her sister enlisting in the Marines. “I was scared,” said Vera. “But she is a warrior and she will never give up on herself.”
Enlisting into the Marines with college credits allowed Marchington to begin as a private first class.
Marchington ranked as a lance corporal in 2003 and two years later competed in the Meritorious Board competition, held between the elite from each rank. She won first place in her unit and got promoted meritoriously to corporal in 2005.
She then continued through the chain of command. Her evaluation scores allowed her to be promoted to sergeant in November of 2006. Shortly after, she was then deployed to Al-Taqaddum base in Iraq.
When asked what it was like upon arrival in Iraq, Marchington replied, “It was a whole different world.”
Marchington was a part of the Female Engagement Team, also known as the ‘grunt team,’ where her job was to search women for weapons.
Marchington shared that Marine unit drivers are 80 percent women. As drivers, women are typically the ones put in harm’s way the majority of the time because they must drive off base to retrieve supplies. According to an Oct. 9, 2012 Inter Press Service article, “How the U.S. Quietly Lost the IED War in Afghanistan,” an estimated 59 percent of military casualties between 2009-2011 were caused by improvised explosive devices used as roadside bombs.
During her one-year tour in Iraq, Marchington said she witnessed children with guns and animals packed with explosives. These experiences were unsettling but Marchington said she never let her ideals change.
In April of 2010 Marchington was selected by the Marine promotion board to become staff sergeant.
As a staff sergeant, Marchington made it a point to teach the junior ranking officers how to do her job, but the other sergeants were unsure of why she was doing so.
“I won’t always be here,” Marchington would say. “If I don’t teach them what I know then all my knowledge goes to waste.”
A strong believer in the saying, ‘work smarter, not harder,’ Marchington always maintained her unit and had them ready to think, then act, not act, not the other way around.
Monica Christianson, Veterans Center project director, spoke of Marchington, saying “She goes above and beyond being a Marine and a student,” said Christianson. “She excels at whatever she chooses to do.”
Marchington received an honorable discharge from the Marines on Dec. 21, 2011. Her desire to return to school became too strong for her to dismiss.
Rachel Barker, 27, met Marchington while she was on base in 29 Palms, where they formed a relationship and are now roommates. Barker commented on Marchington both in and out of uniform. “She has a heart of gold and she will always look out for you,” said Barker.
The transition from military to civilian life can be hard. Marchington described hearing her first name again as, ‘something foreign.’
By the age of 30, Marchington has accomplished and seen more than most could ever dream of. With the drive and passion to do well and succeed in every quest Marchington said, “I feel blessed that I have all my limbs and didn’t have to pull the trigger. It was a life learning experience for me, especially as a woman.”