Our veterans are always on our minds. And with Veterans Day coming up, it’s a time to celebrate the sacrifices they make.
We’re taking a look at local female vets and their journeys serving their country.
Nadia Rios joined the Marines when she was 18 years old in 1998.
“I am an immigrant. So for me, I was very thankful to be in this country and how can I give back,” said Rios.
And she specifically chose the Marines for a specific reason.
“They were the one branch that told me I couldn’t be a Marine because I was too short. So for me it was like a challenge. I’ve never been told you can’t do something,” said Rios.
She proved herself by going to every training session and working hard during the Initial Strength Test, or IST, every other month just to get to Boot Camp.
“Word got around that there was this tiny little girl who wanted to join the Marines,” said Rios. “And unknown to me at one of those ITS’s there was a general watching me. Apparently he liked the fact that I beat everybody there.”
And once she was in, she served for six years.
In 2008, Tracey Collins was a Deputy J4 for Task Force Phoenix. When she deployed to Afghanistan for a year, she left behind a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old, changing her family dynamic.
“Back here my husband, it was very challenging for him. We had to have a full-time nanny having young kids. You know, he had to be not only the father, but the mother,” said Collins.
28 years into her career, Collins is a colonel in the Army Reserves. She admits that at times, it was difficult to be one of the very few women in the room, but it also motivated her.
“When I do speak, everyone’s going to look, everyone’s going to listen. So I better know what I’m talking about,” said Collins. “I better be 110 percent sure of what I’m going to say. So there always is that pressure, but it pushes me to do better.”
Jennifer Slown believes that even though sometimes there’s apprehension when a woman wants to join, there is progress being made.
“Men always had to do pull ups, women would do the flexed arm hang. And then in 2014, 2015 they finally changed over to all marines have to do pull ups regardless of gender,” said Slown.
It didn’t matter how old you were or your gender. When September 11 struck, it motivated everyone.
Slown knew from a young age that she wanted to be a Marine.
“I was in 8th grade when September 11 happened. And when you’re 12 or 13 years old you don’t really understand why it happened or what caused it,” said Slown. “But I know I was really angry about it, that we were attacked and innocent people were killed because of it.”
That drive has still kept her going, and she is now a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Both Slown and Rios also serve as American Legion Post 43 board members.
And their advice for any woman looking to serve?
“You can do this. It’s not impossible, but it is hard. And once you’re in it, it’s what you make it. If you want to be that go-getter, go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it,” said Rios.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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