Story by Cpl Naomi May on 03/08/2019On March 8, 2019, Haley Mathers stood in front of her family, friends and Marine leaders in a ceremony honoring her leadership and achievements her meritorious promotion to corporal, earned for her outstanding merit among several peers.
The ceremony took place at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, next to a replica of the Molly Marine statue, the first monument of a female in service uniform, a tribute to the first female Marines.
Just over a century ago, 40-year-old Opha May Johnson and 300 other women enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. The "Marinettes," as they were commonly referred to, served in non-combat roles and were discharged at the end of World War I when their male counterparts returned home, and there was no longer a need for a surplus in manpower.
One hundred one years after their enlistment, women make up 8 percent of the Marine Corps and are eligible to serve in any military occupational specialty.
Marines like Mathers, a combat photographer, intend to carry the heritage and tradition of women Marines forward as the Marine Corps advances toward a future of complete equality.
"Women Marines are a rare breed, and I'm grateful for all that my sisters before me have accomplished to allow young women like me to thrive in the Marine Corps today," said Mathers, who serves at Marine Corps Recruiting Command, located at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. "I'm honored to be part of their legacy."
Mathers said she joined the Marine Corps to challenge herself, much to the likeness of many of her female predecessors.
After earning superior physical fitness scores and participating in one of the best color guards in the Marine Corps, according to a recent command inspection, Mathers was selected to compete for this promotion. She out-performed six other Marines on a physical fitness test, a rigorous uniform inspection and an interview by a panel of senior Marines to assess if she had the potential to carry on more responsibility with a promotion.
She is now a non-commissioned officer, known as the backbone of the Marine Corps and for taking on more leadership and responsibilities than their juniors.
"When I look at her, I see a very composed and poised Marine who carries herself with self-respect and confidence," said Capt. Molly Smith, Mathers' promoting officer.
Sgt. Maj. Robin Fortner, the Marine Corps Systems Command sergeant major, who pinned Mathers to the rank of corporal, said that Marines such as Mathers are recognized for taking enormous pride in their work and producing quality results.
"Most women Marines recognize the uniqueness and pride of being a part of an elite organization," Fortner said. "The road is often tough, but there is a feeling of responsibility to represent something much larger than yourself. I would hope that as Marines, we continue to serve selflessly and are recognized for the contributions to the mission and the ability to lead all Marines."