When President George H.W. Bush visited the Marines heÂ¿d sent to Somalia on a humanitarian mission, Lance Corporal Marcy Beauchesne felt honored to be his guide on the tour. (COURTESY PHOTO / May 25, 2012)
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Marine veteran Marcy Beauchesne, 41, has good reason to identify with Corps' slogan of "The Few. The Proud. The Marines."
Athletic, goal-oriented and self-aware, Beauchesne decided to join the service in 1990 because she realized there was a flaw in her character.
"I loved athletics in high school and was always striving for a something like MVP (most valuable player)," she said. "I received a basketball, volleyball, softball scholarship to attend Michigan Christian College. I realized there that it was fun to go to practices and games, but I lacked the self-discipline to do well in my academic classes."
Beauchesne thought military service might provide what she lacked. She began meeting with recruiters to see what their branch of the military had to offer.
"The Army and Navy recruiters talked about adventure, travel and bonuses," Beauchesne recalled. "The Marine recruiter talked about things like honor, integrity, self-discipline, self-control, self-respect. I knew that was what I was searching for."
Beauchesne found boot camp to be brutal, but essential in reaching her goals.
"They break you down physically and mentally, but they build you back up," she said. "I went in able to do 100 pushups at a time. By the time they broke us down, I couldn't even do one. Then by the time they finished building us back up, I could do 200."
At one point, the Commandant of the Marines wanted to issue a General Order that Marines couldn't get married until they'd been in the service for four years because a high percentage would go home after boot camp and jump into marriages, many of which failed.
"That's exactly what I did," said Beauchesne. "I married a man I'd been dating before I joined, a man I should never have married."
Beauchesne had 15-month-old and 6-month-old daughters when President George H.W. Bush sent the Marines to Somalia in 1992. In the process of divorce, Beauchesne left her daughters under the care of her parents while she deployed on this peace-keeping, humanitarian mission. She was a member of the motor transport contingent that transported food and supplies to various areas in Somalia.
Beauchesne was shocked to find that all the other women were assigned to a tent in an area 20 minutes away while she was assigned to a tent with 19 men in motor transport. She was also assigned the extra duty of trash detail at the same time reserved for women's showers. Fortunately the men in her tent were generally supportive, and she found ways to protect her privacy and her reputation.
"I don't know why I received those assignments," she said. "There was a lot of good-old-boy mentality then from men who felt women had no business in the Marines. We were trying to prove we did. When we were given a hard time by some of them, we didn't complain."
Beauchesne and her fellow motor transporters spent half their time in Somalia blowing up land mines that had been left behind by Somalian warlords. Ironically, Beauchesne's trash detail ended up giving her one of her most endearing memories of Somalia. Every time she unloaded the trash she'd collected, there would be swarms of boys going through the garbage.
"The kids would jump for joy and applaud me when I arrived with our trash," Beauchesne said. "They were desperate for water and they'd drink our half-empty bottles on the spot. I had to keep reminding the men not to put their cigarettes out in their water because the boys would drink them anyway."
The boys didn't speak English. Beauchesne became particularly close with a 10-year-old who brought a Somali/English dictionary so they could communicate with each other. She noticed that he and his friends had no shoes as they climbed through the trash and broken glass. The top of his feet looked like "burnt hamburger." She ended up giving him her running shoes, leaving her to do her physical training in combat boots.
"I definitely did not have the horrifying experiences in Somalia that some of my comrades did in their combat actions," Beauchesne said. "I did feel that I sacrificed important time with my children. "
When Beauchesne was discharged in 1998, she found her bond with her oldest daughter was intact but there was no bond at all with the daughter who was 6-months-old when she'd left. Beauchesne decided to take child development classes to gain a better understanding of the problem. She learned that bonding between mother and child takes place from birth to 2-years-old and, by this time, her daughter was 9.
"I spent hours everyday for the next three years, coddling, holding my daughter and stroking her hair," Beauchesne said. "Now we're as close as this," she added, holding up two crossed fingers.
Beauchesne remarried and moved from her hometown of Flint to Gaylord to open her own business, Total Lawn Care of Gaylord. She is also very active in the Ralph Holewinski Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1518, and determined to help them raise funds for a new building.
"The Marine Corps gave me self-discipline and self-respect," said Beauchesne. "It was because of the Marine Corps that I was able to start and run my own business when I got out of the service."