CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (1/28/2013) – Three years ago, Cpl.
Rocio Sanchez was entertaining troops in Iraq with her vocals. Now
she is on the other side, serving in the Marine Corps as an
electronic key management systems clerk aboard Camp Leatherneck,
January 28, 2013 - Corporal Rocio Sanchez,
electronic key management system clerk, Retrograde and Redeployment
in support of Reset and Reconstitution Operational Group, Regional
Command (Southwest), serves in Helmand province, Afghanistan, three
years after touring with USO as a singer. Sanchez left her singing
career behind to attend Marine Corps recruit training shortly after
the tour ended. Photo by USMC Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
“I traded in my high heels for combat boots and my microphone for
an M-16 (service rifle),” said Sanchez, currently deployed with
Retrograde and Redeployment in support of Reset and Reconstitution
Operational Group, Regional Command (Southwest). “In May 2009 we
went out to Iraq for a two-week tour.”
Sanchez, from South
Gate, Calif., had already made her decision to join the Marines
before the tour. She joined the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program
earlier that same year.
“Looking back on it, I was
sort of living a double life,” said Sanchez. “I was doing the poolee
functions, and at the same time preparing for the tour as a
Shortly after the tour, Sanchez informed her band
that she was joining the Marine Corps.
“I told my band I was
sorry, but I had to do this,” said Sanchez. “Since I was a little
girl I always wanted to be in the military, just like I had wanted
to be a singer. I wanted to be four things when I was little, a
teacher, a singer, a Marine and a police officer. I've done the
first three so far.”
Sanchez said she's only met one person
who recognized her when she was in Iraq. It was while she was at
Marine Corps recruit training when a drill instructor, who had been
in Iraq and attended her USO concert, noticed her.
Her commanding officer, Col. James Clark with R4OG, was
at one of the bases she visited, but he did not attend the
“From what I understand she's a very good
singer, but I know for a fact that she's a very good
Marine,” said Clark.
Many Marines are surprised to
hear Sanchez was a USO performer. That is until they hear
“I heard her sing in church, and I told her
maybe she should go on one of those shows, like The Voice,
and that's when the story came out,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mark
Neil, electronic key management system manager with R4OG.
Sanchez no longer gets on a stage for servicemembers,
but that does not keep her from singing.
is beautiful,” said Neil, from San Diego. “She also sings
around the office. I told her we are happy to have her in
the Marine Corps, but I thought she could of made it as a
Sanchez deployed to Afghanistan only a
couple months after giving birth to her first child, David
Sanchez III. Giving up a career as a singer was hard, but
leaving her son was harder.
“I left him when he was 6
months old,” said Sanchez. “He couldn't even sit up by
himself. That was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my
David is at home with Sgt. David Sanchez Jr.,
Sanchez's husband a military policeman with the provost
marshal's office at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
For Sanchez, deploying to Afghanistan was a necessity to
grow as a leader and a Marine. When the opportunity came,
she jumped at the chance.
“I need to better myself in
order to lead others,” said Sanchez. “I have to have that
experience. I decided to join the Marine Corps, and I take
responsibility for my job. I wasn't afraid to deploy because
I knew it was part of the job.”
Sanchez has not
backed down from the challenge. She stepped into her job at
Camp Leatherneck and has impressed the Marines around her
with her maturity and work ethic.
“She hasn't missed
a beat,” said Clark, from Tollesboro, Ky. “She's been highly
professional out here, and I'm really thankful she was
willing to come. She's just a tremendous young lady and
someone the junior Marines can look up to. She is a great
example of what hard work and dedication will get you.”
Whether as a Marine, a performer or mother, Sanchez puts
forth the effort needed to be successful. Three years ago
she was onstage entertaining Marines with her voice, now she
works side by side with them, as a vital piece of Operation
By USMC Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
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