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Latina Letters From the Front!

By NC1(SW/AW) Brenda V. Chavez.
ISIC Command Career Counselor.
U.S. Navy.

Brenda visiting a Mexican animal park with her father, Tiburcio Chavez at the age of two, 1984.

I was born and raised in McAllen, Texas. My parents separated during my childhood, and I was raised by a single father of four girls. I believe that he did the best that he could with what he knew in order to raise us.

He brought us to the United States permanently in the early 90s and did everything possible to enroll us in school and provide an opportunity to education. He was not a U.S. citizen, at the time, but rather lived in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.

Thinking back, this was not a normal thing for a Mexican man to take on. Typically, in our culture where it is expected for women to raise their children. I am extremely grateful for the sacrifices that he made in order for all four of us to succeed. My father was forced to drop out of school early in his life.

He made it very clear that education was the only way to a better life and the path to success. I never forgot his words and as I grew to be a young adult, I didn’t know if I would make it to college. I then evaluated my options. I wanted to see places I could only dream of back home. I needed to be cultured and I knew there was more to life than my little hometown.

Diana, my oldest sibling, had recently enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was fulfilling her enlistment at the NATO base in Lisbon, Portugal at the time I decided to enlist. She had freed herself of financial burden and made independent life seem easy and exciting. The stories about the people she met and the places she had seen, served as a catalyst for the journey I was about to embark. The decision to enlist completely changed my life for the better.

I will be honest. In the beginning, the military was not my first career choice. I viewed it as a stepping stone and a doorway to success. It wasn’t until my second enlistment that I realized this may be a rewarding career path.

I can’t say that it just came to me one day or that it was because of one thing or one person. I was influenced by many things and I felt that in that moment I had one of two choices; transition back to being a civilian or become someone that could influence change. I wanted to be a better version of myself. One that others could look up to and that my family could be proud of.

There were many challenges along the way. Some more bearable than others, but above all, I’ve overcome all obstacles in my way. I chose to rise to the occasion, instead of sinking with the problems. Some of the worst times in my career served as life lessons, and have molded me into the leader I have become.

Being a woman in a male-dominated workforce is a challenge in itself, but the strength of the women that came before me has given me the drive to continue to face the challenges ahead. Knowing that they have been able to face the demands in today’s military keeps me motivated to strive each day to do just as they did.

Today, the best part of my job are the people I get to work with. I learn something from each individual. Diversity is incredible and the Navy does an amazing job at being an all-inclusive force. I can proudly say that I am part of the “World’s Greatest Navy!”

Brenda Chavez photographed with siblings and father during a visit to hometown of McAllen, Texas. (L-R) Diana Jewell, Laura Chavez, Tiburcio Chavez, Brenda, and Rosie Chavez.

Brenda onboard the USS Peleliu LHA-5, leaving for Western Pacific Deployment 2006. With best friend, Information Systems Technician Second Class Erika Valenzuela.

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