by Samantha Fabian
Ever since Marian opened its doors in 1955, it has been motivating its students to be confident, independent, thinking leaders. Although these three words are familiar to every Marian student and alum, they hold a deeper meaning for former student Erica Curtis.
Curtis entered Marian as a freshman back in August of 2014, and was set to graduate with the Class of 2018 in May, but her life took an unexpected turn in November of 2016 when her mother decided to move to Fort Worth, Texas. With Curtis’s mother needing her to be there to help look after her siblings, she made the journey with her family to the South, and enrolled in Southwest High School immediately after Thanksgiving break.
It was her mother’s verdict to move her family out to Texas, and Curtis wasn’t fully on board with her decision. She found herself discontented with where she was at, as the sudden move made her living situation uncomfortable; she wanted to remove herself from the stress of the new environment.
Curtis mustered up all her courage and decided that it would be best to separate herself from her family. Although it was a tough decision, Curtis had the support of her decade-long mentor Sharon Flinn as well as Vicky Muli, both of whom helped her through the long process that was to come.
With her plans in motion, Curtis decided that it would be best to enlist in the Army, as they offered her the financial stability and medical insurance she needed. Curtis was soon afterward sworn into the Army on May 24, 2017 and then graduated a year early from high school later on Aug. 18, 2017.
Although her resolve was made, she soon began receiving comments from people who opposed her decision. They began to say things such as, “Aren’t you scared you’re going to die?” and, “You could do better, just go to college.” Because of these words, she began to second guess her decision. Despite this, she stayed strong and persevered with the support of Flinn and Muli.
“Initially, I was not thrilled with Erica’s choice to enlist, but I soon came to realize that she was both very determined and very excited about this opportunity. So my only support to her then was my encouragement as she prepared to be accepted and to leave home,” Flinn said.
Her first 10 weeks in the Army consisted of Basic Combat Training (BCT) as a member of the 1-34 Battalion Alpha Company First Platoon. Their motto was, “Punish them all,” meaning that if one person messed up, everyone would have to endure corrective training.
“One thing our sergeants would say was that we would come out of BCT a strong soldier or a smart soldier, and we had to choose which one,” Curtis said.
She chose to be a smart one, “I have not purposely or individually gotten myself in trouble. I have just kind of stayed out of the cross hairs of the drill sergeants and sergeants,” Curtis said.
Curtis was then stationed at Fort Lee, Va to complete her eight weeks of Advanced Individual Training as a part of the 244th Quarter Master Battalion. While she was there, she was being trained in Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) 92Y as a unit supply specialist, and then reported to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas on Jan. 28 for her first duty assignment.
Throughout the entire process, Curtis noted that the hardest part was when she had to endure her Basic Combat Training. Being in a new environment away from her home, friends and mentors was a difficult endeavor, but she was able to persevere through challenges from the motivation of her “battle buddies” and the letters she received from home.
Not only was Curtis able to accomplish her training and graduate from BCT, but she was also able to gain the respect of others.
“Erica has proven herself to be an amazing young woman. Her determination and resolve are unbelievable. I could never have completed boot camp and done the things she has done to accomplish it all. She has my complete respect in that regard […] I am proud and honored to call her a friend,” Flinn said.
With Curtis just recently graduating from training on Jan. 26, she is already looking toward the future, not just in El Paso (Fort Bliss), but also beyond that.
“Right now, I am planning to stay in the Army for 20 years. I plan on still continuing my dream of becoming a nurse practitioner and will be able to apply for tuition assistance next year. After I get my degree, I hope to be a candidate for an officer or a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) First Sergeant (1SG) or Master Sergeant,” Curtis said.
With big dreams ahead, and with being deployed to South Korea later this year, Curtis is thankful for the foundation that Marian gave her as an individual, and hopes that others are also able to find motivation in the three adjectives that got her through various challenges.
“[In Texas] I went to a school where no one cared if they passed or failed. Taking my determination and motivation from Marian, I was able to finish 13 online courses to graduate high school in August and proceed to my career in the army two weeks after high school graduation. Marian has taught me to never give up, always believe in myself and always remember that I am a confident, independent, thinking leader,” Curtis said.