Letty Vazquez is a Marine Corps Veteran, mom, wife, and student; she is the second winner of the OurMilitary.com Bi-Annual Veteran Recognition Scholarship.
While serving in the Marine Corps, Letty gained the discipline, motivation, and support she needed to fully commit to getting a college degree. And she didn’t stop after one. When she obtained her bachelor’s, she decided to go after a JD (Juris Doctor) degree, and she’s looking forward to graduating and becoming a JAG officer. She currently volunteers her free time with the Innocence Project, working with the documents of inmates who have been wrongfully convicted.
Letty Vazquez was selected out of an inspiring group of scholarship applicants that all had compelling stories and experiences, ranging from military children and wives to active service members and Veterans. Her consistent dedication to bettering herself — both within and out of the military — is the reason she was chosen as the winner.
OurMilitary.com is very proud to help Letty further her education and continue to make her mark on the military community. Here is her winning essay:
Failure Is Not An Option by Letty Vazquez
What drives a person to reach educational accolades? Is it personal goals? Or maybe it’s status in society? One could attribute the educational value to a dollar amount and conclude that education can mean a better life. One could also make the argument in the intangible value of education contributing to life-long self-approval. For me, none of these ring true as inspiration or motivation to impact my education. There is only one driving factor for me… failure is not an option.
I grew up with less than most and it was evident; but wanting what others had was never my fixation. I was hungry to learn what others didn’t know and to explore what others were too afraid to do. I was always challenging the status quo. Fear did not stop me from going further, but sometimes, the lack of financial opportunities did. By the time I had the ability to have a say in my own future, I did.
I joined the military without a dollar in my pocket, and without telling a soul. I went to boot camp in hopes to become better than where I came from. In the military, we were all the same; fear and camaraderie were daily companions. Just like in my previous life, adventure awaited at every corner. From volunteering for the worst “working parties” to choosing duty on holidays, my inspiration to learn about my job — whatever the job was — always propelled me to a new path in life. The Marine Corps was my life. It gave me everything I never had before. I had stability, structure, and free medical care. I also had the opportunity for an education.
After one year in the service, I decided to give college a try. It went well most days; I was able to leave work, but the drive was not there. I really enjoyed my work and the Marine Corps had lots of it. After two years and two classes short of an associate’s degree, I decided to focus on deploying and becoming a better leader within the ranks. I had great leaders, and I also had not-so-great leaders, but one common theme among all was they all valued their education. Not just the life and military kind… but the paper on the wall that provided self-validation. But for me it was not the plan: I wanted to make Marines.
In my third enlistment, I had already made the decision to only commit to the Marine Corps 100% of my time. After eight years I knew the climb up was almost done. One day in 2016, my lance corporal asked me, “Sergeant, how come you always tell us the importance of school, but you don’t go yourself?” I was baffled, embarrassed, but more importantly disappointed in myself. I had spent the better part of the last six years training, teaching, and mentoring others. I had almost forgotten that I deserved the same quality training, teaching, and most importantly an education.
The military had given me everything that I needed to be successful, so why had I not decided to utilize the tools to my advantage? I told my lance corporal that that day would be the last day someone would be able to call me out as a hypocrite. I signed up for school again and by 2019 I had completed a bachelor’s degree. So then what? I achieved the paper on the wall. I had my validation. But I could not complete school and continue in active duty service; at the time with a husband deployed and two young babies, it was just too much. My decision to leave the service was ultimately driven by one goal only… failure is not an option.
In May 2019, my husband was medically retired. I suppose five deployments and a few injuries rang the bell on his time. Now it was my turn, I could focus my full time attention on my education, so I did. The military provided me with the opportunity to use the GI Bill and I was able to pursue the education I never thought I would before.
My challenge today and my driving goal is one thing… failure is not an option. I moved to another country away from my husband and kids on a whim, because survival and success are not dependent on fear. While my family lives in North Carolina, I study in Puerto Rico in pursuit of my Juris Doctor. My hope is to return to the service as a JAG officer proudly showing my former lance corporal that dedication and determination are more valuable than a paper on a wall.
Encompassing my biggest inspiration and motivation that impacted my education, even more than the opportunities the military has given me, was the ability to take advice even when who it came from was unexpected. The mere challenge from a subordinate who saw more in me than I saw in myself.
Check back through December and January to read the remaining top three finalists’ essays and learn more about their amazing stories of service and what has inspired their education and learning.