First of Her Kind
New York recruit among first with Marine Corps infantry contract
As the military continues to make history by opening combat roles to women, from Navy submariners to the Army Rangers, some of the first female Marines with infantry contracts have graduated from basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.
One of them is Pvt. Maria Daume, who was born in a Russian prison. Her mother was incarcerated, and she and her twin brother, Nikolai, lived in the prison for two years until their mother's death. Then they were transferred to an orphanage in Moscow for two additional years. The 4-year-old Daume twins were eventually adopted by an American family and grew up in Long Island, New York.
Those experiences helped shape her desire to become a U.S. Marine, and she calls it "an honor to fight for this great country." But while her early life in America made her hopeful for the future, the shine quickly faded as it became clear Daume wasn't always as welcome as she'd have liked.
"Other kids would bully me consistently from when I was four to my senior year of high school," Daume said. "It would be for being Russian or being adopted. They would say things about my mom and why she was in prison even if no one knew why. Bullying was a big thing."
As this adversity continued, she said she grew the mental toughness needed to avoid letting those actions get under her skin. Instead, Daume said those challenges will contribute to her future accomplishments in the Marines and the School of Infantry.
Such mental strength helps recruits battle through the physical rigors of not only recruit training, but life in the Marine Corps. Daume, who even trekked through her hometown with a bag loaded with books, has also prepared for the physical challenges, for walking miles with load-bearing gear or completing obstacle courses, for example.
"I played a lot of sports in my life, like basketball, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey," said Daume. "I also did (mixed martial arts) and Jiu-Jitsu. With MMA, it is all about staying calm and not getting angry. If you get angry, you can make stupid mistakes. I know how to get hit and keep cool. With the team sports, you have to work together. When you're a team, you're a family."
Just like the Marine Corps, recruit training is hard because it has to be. The first of the Marine Corps' three tenets is "we make Marines," and to accomplish that, young men and women from across the varied fabric of American society come together to undergo 13 weeks of intense mental and physical training to earn their Eagle, Globe and Anchors. Recruit backgrounds and experiences will vary, but the training is designed to ensure they come together as a single unit. Infantry training will be even more rigorous.