Journey From Russia To Becoming A U.S. Marine
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall
June 26, 2020
With the same passion and determined spirit that motivated her to join the Marine Corps, Cpl. Veronika R. Gottschalk smiled and began to describe her journey from her early life in Russia to eventually becoming the accomplished Marine she is today.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Veronika R. Gottschalk, an intelligence specialist with 3rd Marine Division poses for a photo at Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan, June 3, 2020. Gottschalk shared her story of becoming a Marine after being adopted from Russia at the age of 6. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall)
Gottschalk, an intelligence specialist with 3rd Marine Division, grew up in what some would consider unusual circumstances. At the age of 6, she and her younger brother were adopted from the Tyva Republic and brought into a loving home in Minster, Ohio.
“I came from a mother that couldn’t support my brother and I, someone who constantly left us alone,” Gottschalk said. “We literally had nothing. When child protective services came and put us in an orphanage, we didn’t really know what our future was going to hold.”
Life in the orphanage was uncertain. Gottschalk and her brother were almost split up before their adoptive parents came into the picture.
“Thankfully, the couple that adopted us were from a well-rounded family and supportive of every endeavor my brother and I pursued growing up,” Gottschalk said. “We never had to question if there would be enough to survive. They are definitely a part of my ‘back bone’ and helped shape me into the strong-minded person I am today.”
Sitting up a little straighter in her chair, Gottschalk’s smile dropped and her face transformed from one of joy and reminiscence to that of an impassioned and determined young Marine.
Gottschalk contrasted her experience growing up in the restrictive circumstances of an orphanage in Russia and moving to the United States. She explained the appreciation she felt for a nation that afforded her the ability to say what she wanted, wear whatever she wanted, and the freedom to fully express herself.
“I joined the Marine Corps because the United States, my parents and my family have given me so much,” Gottschalk said. “I wanted to find a sense of purpose and for me that was serving my country.”
Gottschalk joined the Marine Corps in January of 2018. She went on to complete Marine Combat Training and her occupation specialty school for intelligence specialists in Dam Neck, Virginia, where she received orders to Okinawa, Japan.
Eight months into being stationed overseas, Gottschalk was meritoriously promoted to Corporal, completed a combat fitness test not only to perfect standards for females but for males as well and hopes to do the same for her next physical fitness test. She went on to qualify for a Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival training seat, which is considered one of the toughest swim qualifications in the military and will attend the course this fall.
Holding firm to the standards she set when joining, Gottschalk continually strives to outdo her peer group and rise to the challenges the Marine Corps has to offer, even when fellow Marines or superiors question her abilities.
“It’s really refreshing for me to be able to do something when someone says ‘you’re not going to be able to do that,’ especially when they bring me being a female into it and I out-perform them,” Gottschalk said with a grin. “That’s something that drives me to excel in everything I do.”
With hopes to continue her Marine Corps career and one day become a drill instructor or commission as an officer, Gottschalk plans to continue to serve and give back to the people and country that gave her so much.
“I have based my Marine Corps career and life along the lines of a quote from my favorite Russian-American Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall, Ayn Rand,” Gottschalk said. ‘The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.’”
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