Seize the Opportunity.
By Lieutenant Colonel Lina Downing.
The recent national elections have been a historic time for our country. A lot mix emotions are manifesting among our nation. I consider this is an optimal time to reflect on just how resilient, proud and determined we are. As our country begins another era, the fact remains that this nation still depends on us.
We, Latinas, are a significant part of the great reflection of the American dream. Many of us share alike journeys that have created a very strong common thread. I was born and raised in Colombia. My family moved from Colombia to Panama when I was only eight years old. Unexpectedly, at age 17, a wonderful family gave me the opportunity to make America my home.
Since then until now, I have learned lessons that many of us confront every day. Upon my arrival to this land of opportunities and only understanding the basics of the language, I began to work at a local retail store. Soon, I realized that it was a good start but just for the short term. The local community college offered education at a reasonable price. Even if it was not an Ivy League college, a degree was the bridge that could armed me for a better job, and so I took classes at a local community college. Quickly, I realized that a junior degree couldn’t guarantee more than a minimum wage salary.
I decided to join the Marine Corps. A leap of faith, for someone who knew nothing about military service. Of all the services, I chose the one with the most stringent and tough standards. Why? I wanted to push my limits. Even today, I remember clearly many training days when I lost sweat in buckets, lengthy deployments to contentious environments, and realizing that only through hard work and seizing good opportunities will I reach my goals in life.
Today, I rank among the top two percent of all Marines. Sixty three women presently hold my rank, and only four of us are Latinas. We take nothing for granted while continuously demonstrate the resilient fiber we are made out of. Every day we understand what it means to be in the few and the proud.
I hope for you and for the sake of this country that you never allow national, professional, and simple day to day noise dissuade you from achieving your goals. Always believe that you can seize opportunities. Realize that sometimes opportunity knocks on your door, but sometimes you must knock on hers.
I hope that you observe the good and progressive people around you while discarding the negative ones. Engage the former about their careers and education; and follow up with research. Yes, do your research because it’s the key to finding the good deals that are hidden between the lines.
Be adventurous! And I hope that you don’t reject opportunities simply because they’re not the most popular places or the most sought after jobs. Life is not always about prestige, sometimes it is about experience. I never would’ve thought that someday I would see the Tigris and Euphrates tributaries; yet, I marched them while opposing tyranny in Iraq. And finally, I hope that you approach life without fear.
Yes, be fearless! Even if your heart is raising, your palms get sweaty, and the current is too strong, remain committed to your goal. We are descendants from great leaders. Let’s remember Simon Bolivar or even more recently: Pope Francis. We have built this country, we sustain it, and our example will mold the younger generations to continue our legacy.