CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- "It's hard enough being one of 'the few.' We're the few of the few," says Cpl. Judy Hecksher.
The 'few of the few' Hecksher is referring to are the women Marines who play a major role in today's Marine Corps.
In sheer numbers, the Marines Corps is a male-dominated force. The relatively small ratio of women to men in the Corps, however, is not necessarily a burden for women Marines. According to Hecksher, it's a motivation for success.
Hecksher, a supply property chief for Headquarters Battery, 10th Marine Regiment speaks avidly about the pride of being a Marine. For her, being a woman Marine is an extra source of pride.
"I love being a female in the Marine Corps," said Hecksher, who has been a Leatherneck for more than three years. "It gives me a lot of pride to have the chance to prove myself on a daily basis."
According to Hecksher, being a woman Marine can be challenging, but the opportunities for success are out there.
"The opportunities are there; we just have to go out and get them. We have to open our own doors."
Being a woman in a 'grunt' regiment, Hecksher admits she and other women Marines don't often get the chance to interact with 10th Marines' firing batteries. When they do however, it gives these women a chance to stand out and shine. One such instance was last November's Division-wide motivational run.
"I got my girls together and told them that this was our chance to prove ourselves to the guys," she said.
Hecksher attributes this type of troop motivation to the leadership she received at her first duty station, Okinawa, Japan. Sergeant Beatrice Weeks was a superb role model to all Marines, said Hecksher.
"She made sergeant in four years; always a professional," explained Hecksher, who plans to reenlist later this year. "She gave us someone we could turn to as women, but she never forgot her place as a noncommissioned officer."
Hecksher pulls inspiration from another source, as well; her 16-month-old son, Roberto. She said being a mother in the Corps is hard, but not impossible.
"The lines between being a mom and being a Marine do cross, but it's not a handicap," she explained. "We grow together in the Corps. I'm proud."
Women's History Month, observed throughout March, provides female Marines like Hecksher an opportunity to celebrate the advances that have been made for women's rights.
"It gives us a chance to celebrate all the accomplishments of the women who came before us," said Hecksher. "Those accomplishments paved the way for us today, and we need to show pride in who we are."
Hecksher hopes to use her experiences as a woman Marine to positively influence tomorrow's female leaders.
"Don't ever slow down," Hecksher emphasized. "Remember what you came in [the Marine Corps] for."