Marsha Hayden’s 21-year career in the military was a journey for country and self.
Hayden had not decided early in life that she would join the armed forces. Rather, she joined the military because she said she was “looking for a challenge.”
And she found the perfect challenge by enlisting in the Marines in 1977.
In choosing what branch to join, gender and race were of most importance, and Hayden said that she joined the Marines “because they didn’t have enough black females.”
The 1972 physical education major quickly moved up the ranks. When she was accepted into the Warrant Officer Program, she began realizing how much of an impact military life was beginning to have on her. With only a 7 percent acceptance rate into the program, she said she was thrilled at the “awesome opportunity.”
But, her biggest success was getting promoted to major in 1995 — not only because it marked a career accomplishment, but because, as she says, “at the time, there were only five other black female majors in the Marine Corps.”
Her successes allowed Hayden the chance to travel the globe, expanding both her world and personal views.
“The Marines incited my love of traveling,” Hayden said. “I was stationed all over the world and was exposed to many different cultures in places like Europe and Asia. I was even in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War and got to interact with a lot of people there. That really opened my eyes.”
Reflecting on her career, Hayden is proud of her military service as an African-American woman and hopes her story gives others like her the chance to explore their challenges and exceed their own expectations.