By Cpl. Amaia Unanue, USMC.

Cpl. Amaia Unanue prepares to shoot an M4 carbine rifle during training aboard USS Ashland (LSD 48) during a 3-month patrol of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. July, 2017.

Lance Cpl. Amaia Unanue graduates the broadcasting course at the Defense Information School, Fort Meade, Maryland. February, 2016.

Cpl. Amaia Unanue captures a helicopter through the lens of her camera in the middle of shooting a video at Ie Shima. Okinawa, Japan in 2016.

For as long as I could remember I knew that one day I’d join the military. At four years old, I watched with admiration as my mother, Staff Sgt. Evelyn Colon, strapped on her black combat boots at the break of dawn and walked out the door in a gallant uniform that looked so out of place against the background of our suburban neighborhood in Caguas, Puerto Rico. A large picture of my father, Specialist Jose Ignacio Unanue, sitting on a fence during Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia at the age of 21 hung in the hallway of our small home. I remember looking at his cool, composed pose in a gloomy desert area and thinking no one else could be so cool. Both, my mother and father, joined the Army from Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.

Fifteen years later, I was just starting my second year at a community college in Avon Park, Florida, when I heard my calling. I was unsure of what direction I was going in with my education and I began researching the branches of the military. The obvious choice was to join the Army because of my family’s history, but once I learned more about the Marine Corps I was drawn a different direction. My family was very supportive and encouraged me to make the best choice for me. The challenge the Marine Corps presented and the manner in which the recruiters conducted themselves compared to other branches led me to join the few and the proud.

Pfc. Amaia Unanue graduates Marine Corps boot camp, April 2015. Her brother, Arnaitz Unanue, left, and mother, Evelyn Colon, show their support by wearing 4th Battalion, Unanue’s battalion, attire.

I remember one of the tipping points in my decision-making process was my Spanish-speaking grandmother, Barbara Sepulveda, telling me she wanted me to join ‘los del anuncio que tienen las espadas y los uniformes bonitos,’ meaning “the ones from the commercial with the swords and the good-looking uniforms.” Making my family proud was always important to me.

Today, I am a mass communicator with III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. My experiences on this tiny island south of mainland Japan have impacted me more than anything else in my life. This is where I learned other countries’ cultures like Japan, Korea, Guam and Australia. This is where I developed as a photojournalist, videographer and storyteller. This is where I matured as a Marine, from a lance corporal to a sergeant. This is where I met my husband, Thor Larson, and this is where I will give birth to my daughter, May 31, 2018.

Though the journey here has been extremely challenging, I’ll never regret joining the Marine Corps. I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished and how much I’ve grown as a person through these past three years. Not only am I thankful for my supportive family back in Florida and Puerto Rico, but also for the Marines I’ve grown alongside of.

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