By Emnely Rodriguez
Marine Security Guard Detachment

National Hispanic Heritage Month is in October and it allows me to reflect on what my Hispanic roots mean to me. My family came from Santiago, Dominican Republic. I grew up in New York. I never really thought about the fact that my parents were not from the US. I never felt different from other kids.

My hometown was very diverse. We had bodegas, which are basically like minimarts. Our grandmothers would send us there for groceries, the owners knew our families – the whole community was very tightknit. I ate a lot of Spanish food growing up – I didn’t really get to indulge in American-style food until I was older. The excuse was always “there’s rice and beans at home.” There really was always rice and beans every night, to be honest. The best Spanish dish ever, in my opinion, is arroz con leche, or rice with milk. It has a soft oatmeal-like texture and tastes sweet, like cinnamon. Of course, I think it tastes best when a Dominican makes it. Another favorite dish of mine is this drink my dad makes. It’s orange juice with milk called morí soñando, which translates to, ‘I died dreaming.’ Anytime I go home my parents always have these dishes ready for me.

My brother mentioned joining the US Marine Corps (USMC) first. I was in high school, then, getting ready to go to college and wanted something that challenged me. I realized college just wasn’t for me. I began researching it more and found myself on the USMC website. I signed up for a free Marine Corps t-shirt and dog tags, and all I had to do was give them my email and number for it. A few days later, a recruiter called me. Now, almost seven years later, this is my passion (I never did end up getting that free kit, though). I still to this day make fun of my brother who decided not to join.

It’s hard sometimes being a female Marine. We make up less than 10% of the entire Marine Corps, so you can imagine how magnified the spotlight is. I have to be the best I can be and there is no room for mistakes, even for the smallest tasks. Anything less than perfect is not good enough. As for high-ranking females, it’s rare to come across. So, when I do have the opportunity to work around them, I just absorb any knowledge I can.

In my role as a Marine, I have to follow rules in presenting myself a certain way. On my days off, I enjoy expressing myself by investing time in one of my personal passions – makeup. Makeup is a form of art through which I can fully express myself. It’s an outlet. With makeup, I can be whoever I want to be and express how I feel on any given day. If I’m feeling down, I’ll do a crazy looking face with my makeup. If I’m happy, I’ll do a bright touch with my makeup. There’s no uniform I have to follow and I can let my hair down… literally.

I’m taking online degree courses in criminology and cosmetology, right now, which satisfy both my Marine interests and makeup interests. I am a woman. I am a Marine. I can do it all.