Thai Marine realizes dreams in Corps

2 Oct 2000 | Sgt. Arthur Stone

People come from all walks of life, but few can say that coming into the Marine Corps was actually the fruition of a lifelong dream. However, one administrative clerk at Court House Bay here can make that claim. 

Sergeant Siriporn Nakphinphat, an administrative clerk for Marine Corps Engineer School at Court House Bay, faced many challenges prior to entering the Marine Corps.  None of which turned her from her goal of becoming a U.S. Marine.

Nakphinphat was born in a small village in the Ratchaburi province of southern Thailand, Nov. 10, 1974.  The youngest of five children, she was the only child in her family to be born in a hospital.  Her parents divorced when she was only 2 years old and her mother moved to the United States with her older sisters, leaving her and her brother with their grandparents in Thailand. 

Her mother returned several times to Thailand while she was growing up, but she did not follow her mother back to the states until Sept. 10, 1990.

"I came from a military family," said Nakphinphat, "but I'm the first female in the family to join the service - and the first person to join the Marine Corps.  It was my dream to be a Marine since I was seven.

"My uncle on my mom's side was in the Royal Thai Navy as a military policeman and a drill instructor.  I remember the feeling I had when he came home.  I would hide from him because he was mean.  He had that D.I. attitude that terrified me as a kid.  He wouldn't joke around with us at all.  Still, I was so proud of him.  I was impressed and wanted to be like him."

Since females are not allowed to serve in the military in Thailand, she thought she would never be able to make her dream come true.  At her grandmother's bidding, she followed her mother to her new home in Kansas City, Mo., where a Marine recruiter called her during her senior year. 

"I was so happy I wanted to jump up and down," Nakphinphat admitted.  "I signed the contract and my mom didn't even know it.  My sister and my cousins told me I wouldn't make it, because they didn't believe in me.  My mother and my brother believed in me though, and told me I would make it."

She entered the Marine Corps Sept. 25, 1994, and began recruit training in Parris Island, S.C.

Because of Thai customs, Nakphinphat had not been allowed to go out of the house while she was growing up, except when traveling to and from school.  However, she claimed she never had a problem taking orders, because she was taught from childhood not to question orders from her grandparents. 

"I really tried when I first came into the Marine Corps," said Nakphinphat.  "I was very shy because the Thai lifestyle is very sheltered for girls.  I'm very independent - I had no life when I was younger and I was so afraid someone would take my freedom away, because I had no freedom when I was young.  The Marine Corps gave me a lifetime of experience to see the world and meet people." 

Because of her nationality and background, she also took on the additional military occupational specialty 8611-interpreter, because she reads, writes and speaks fluent Thai, making her one of only six Thai interpreters in the Marine Corps.  She put her skills to work during the Cobra Gold 96 planning conference in Thailand.

The Marine Corps had really impacted her life, and as a result of the transformation her family saw in her, Nakphinphat said her youngest cousin joined the U.S. Army, and her brother started college, striving to make something of their lives as she had done.

"People ask me why I stay in the service when I can make more money on the outside," said Nakphinphat.  "I tell them I'm not in it for the money.  I'm in it because I love it and I enjoy what I do.  I look forward to going to college, but my goal is to pass my knowledge about the Marine Corps on to other young Marines."