TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Peggy Gristeau is tough. She is a mom, wife and a Marine. She doesn't juggle her responsibilities, she embraces them, making them who she is. This is her life as seen through the eyes of the men who are in it.
Peggy Gristeau, pictured with her husband and children on March 22, 2013 is tough. She is a mom, wife and a Marine. She doesn't juggle her responsibilities, she embraces them, making them who she is. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Lauren Kurkimilis
She is hands down the best person on the planet,” said Staff Sgt. Jamario Thompson, Gristeau's husband. “She's my best friend and my comforter. I love her. No one's perfect, but she's the closest thing.”
Gristeau and Thompson were married more than three years ago, while both stationed in Japan. The origin of them meeting is a topic often still debated.
“We met years ago through a mutual friend,” Thompson said. “But then both our girls played basketball together back in Okinawa.”
“He says we met before that,” Gristeau said. “I don't recall it, but apparently he remembers.”
“I wanted to get to know her,” Thompson said. “She seemed really outgoing but also really strict. She's the female version of me. Sometimes you meet someone and you feel like they've known you forever. Our lives just clicked. When you think about it, everything that has happened with us has been meant to be. It was almost like too good to be true.”
When the two staff-enlisted Marines merged their families and their lives, the result was not only a much larger household, but a playfully competitive nature.
“She's my favorite hater, that's what I call her,” Thompson said. “She loves it when I do well but she always picks out the flaws, nonstop. Her favorite game is to play devil's advocate.”
Thompson and Gristeau call their family a “blended family.”
Bringing together two different parenting styles to care for multiple children, ranging from toddler to teenager has been no easy task.
“At first it was really hard,” Thompson said. “It was because of different tactics and different parenting but it's all been worth it. The family all together is wonderful. Getting us all together was the best thing we ever did, honestly.”
Gristeau and Thompson say that when they married, not only did they vow to love and protect each other but they vowed to love and protect each other's children.
“Hands down, she's the best role model,” Thompson said. “She says things how it is and she doesn't tolerate any mess. Our kids are all well taken care of. She's their mom now and that's what they all call her.”
She makes me feel like she's my actual mom,” said Julius Thompson, 11, Gristeau's stepson. “When I first met her, I thought she would be a nice woman and that she would care for me. I thought that if I ever got hurt, that she would always be there by my side.”
Julius and his sister Jayden, 13, live with Gristeau and Thompson along with Gristeau's children Kendriana, 12, and Duane, 5.
“They're all just like real brothers and sisters,” Gristeau said. “They fight. They argue. They love each other. It's like they've always been together.”
Gristeau often takes the kids to basketball and baseball practice, Julius said, but most times, the two parents take them together.
“I love her because she cares for me all the time,” Julius said. “I really think my dad loves her a lot. I mean he gave her a ring. We're lucky because they always take care of us and make sure we have everything.”
Gristeau says she simply does her best, but just like with anyone, there are days that are more exhausting than others.
“That's where he comes in,” Gristeau said. “We help each other with the kids like that because then when he comes home after a long day and he needs a break, I can be the one to step in and be there. It has to be give and take when you have a big family like ours.”
“When I grow up, I'm going to be the smartest kid I know,” Julius said. “But if I get all messed up, I know she'll be there to help me.”
For her, I think being a mother and a Marine is almost one in the same,” said Sgt. Edward Phillips. “She cares about the Marines and tries to know as much about them as possible. She makes sure that instead of them getting the least possible standards, that they get the best.”
Phillips has worked for Gristeau at the Combat Center's Distribution Management Office for more than a year. During this time, he has learned her personality not only as a staff noncommissioned officer, but also as a person and mentor.
“I have a wife and a three-year-old daughter,” Phillips said. “If I ever have to take time to go take care of my family in some way, she supports that. She's all about making sure the Marines can take care of not only themselves but their families, too.”
Gristeau aims to help her Marines build their character, not only as Marines but as people, Phillips said. She encourages them to support their personal lives, develop their proficiency in their jobs and to volunteer in the community. She has led by example by serving as a representative for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society and Combined Federal Campaign.
“She's retiring in a couple years and it's going to be sad to see her go,” Phillips said. “I've seen the impact she makes on her Marines and you can see it in the way they work and carry themselves. A leader like that is hard to come by.”
By USMC Lance Cpl. Lauren Kurkimilis
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