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What I've Learned: Marine Diane Durden
by USMC Cpl. Ali Azimi - October 6, 2013

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"Mere Chance" by David G. Bancroft

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Diane Durden served nearly 24 years in the Marine Corps and continues to work with Marines as a Family Readiness Officer.

I was a very rebellious teenager. Nothing criminal. Normal '80s teenage mischief. Staying out late, not being where I was suppose to be.

My mom didn't want me (to join the Marine Corps). The more she didn't want me to, the more I was anxious and eager to do that.

September 17, 2013 - Diane Durden served 24 years in the Marine Corps and continues to work with Marines as a Family Readiness Officer. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ali Azimi)
September 17, 2013 - Diane Durden served 24 years in the Marine Corps and continues to work with Marines as a Family Readiness Officer. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ali Azimi)

At the time, I had met some Marines that were stationed near my house. I thought what they did was interesting and exciting. Although it really wasn't, because they were gate guards. Now I know!

I was bored with school and felt that I was not going to get anything out of going to college. I didn't want my parents to waste their money by me going to school so having met these Marines and becoming friends with them just gave me a natural interest in that.

I run marathons. I didn't run a marathon 'til I was 40. It was part of my “mid-life crisis,” ... one of those bucket-list things.

When I was in the Marine Corps I hated running. It was not something I did for enjoyment. I ran, for physical training at lunch time or before work, because I needed to maintain my height and weight standards and of course, I wanted a first-class PFT. That was the extent of my running.

Once I started adding that mileage, going five miles, six miles, 10 miles, I realized that I really enjoy running, just not three miles. I feel like I'm just getting warmed up at that point.

I've done nearly 60 marathons and several ultra-marathons.

The first one I ran was the Marine Corps Marathon and I've run one every year since then, to include running it again this year.

A marathon is 26.2 miles. That's the standard marathon distance. An ultra-marathon is anything beyond that.

I've done a 100-mile (marathon), but it was over several days. It was over last New Year, when I went to Phoenix, Ariz. I signed up for the 72-hour race. The object is to get in as many miles as you can in that time period.

I could have done much more than I did, however, I napped a lot. I went way off my plan. My plan was to do 20 miles, nap for a few hours, nap for another 20 miles and do that throughout the whole weekend. I did the 20 miles and I ended up sleeping all night. I made my camp-site way too comfy.

Things you would eat normally are the best things in the middle of the night after you've done 30 miles.

My first ultra that I did – I do not like canned chicken noodle soup – and I swear they had that at one of the aid stations and that was the best chicken noodle soup I've ever had.

I like to push myself to see what my limits are. I think as a whole, as people, we don't ever really know what our limits are, because we are afraid to push ourselves to what they are or we set what our limit is and realize that's not your limit when you could have gone farther.

I was stationed in Ohio, my last duty-station, and just like every Marine I had to take Separations and Transition Assistance Program and because there wasn't one located right where we were, I chose to come out here.

I had already known that I wanted to do something with public affairs or media related. So I met with (Mr. James Ricker, G-5 Deputy Director) and said, “Here are some of my ideas and I'd really like to come work with you when I retire." He was very enthusiastic about that. However, when I retired there was a hiring freeze, but there was a contractor opportunity at the PAO office. I applied for it and fortunately for me they (hired me).

I was originally just supposed to do “admin and assist” stuff in the public affairs office, but they knew what I wanted to do ultimately.

The second day I was there they handed me a camera and said, “Here. Go take pictures of this event.” It was a (Single Marine Program) haunted house up at the East Gym.

I didn't even know how to turn the camera on. I had to get the operator's manual out. Some of the Marines were helpful, but some of them were like, “Nobody told us. Here you go.”

In my time in the Corps, one of my favorite billets that I held was a platoon commander at the School of Infantry. I worked at medical rehab platoon. So students that got injured or sick in training would come to my platoon and I would monitor them; help keep them motivated, help keep them out of trouble, keep them on track so we can get them healed and back to training.

It was one of my favorite duty stations and one of my most emotionally trying. There were issues with Marines that became emotionally draining sometimes. Marines that you became close to that no matter what you do medically, they still weren't going to be able to go back to training.

But I also had the most fun with that job too. I felt like I had a positive impact on young Marines as they were coming into the Marine Corps.

When I went to boot camp in 1983, women fired the M16, but did not qualify with it. I did not qualify with the rifle until I was already in the Marine Corps ... almost two years.

The biggest change that I've seen is just the women and our role in the Marine Corps. Many more opportunities have opened up.

One of the funniest things I think, when I was a young lance corporal, we were issued slacks with our uniform, but we weren't allowed to wear them off base. We had to wear skirts with our uniforms.

I wanted to be in color guard, but women didn't learn that in boot camp like male Marines did. I had to take the initiative to learn it on my own.

I was a casualty assistance call officer. That was absolutely, no kidding, the hardest thing I have ever, ever, ever had to do; to notify a mom that her Marine daughter was killed.

Going and knocking on that mom's door, every parent knows what it means to have a Marine come and knock on your door like that. I don't wish that experience on anybody, to have to do that.

By USMC Cpl. Ali Azimi
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2013

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