CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- The Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos’ recent letter to sergeants and corporals, “The Reawakening,” describes the noncommissioned officers as the backbone of the Marine Corps.
Sgt. Shakyra S. Parrish is one such motivating Marine. Between acting as the supply administration chief for the Consolidated Combat Camera, G-3/5, operations and training, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, and being a single mother of a six year old, Parrish inspires and encourages all Marines she meets.
“After (having the baby), I found myself on food stamps with no car, catching the bus everywhere,” said Parrish. “I looked at my life and thought, ‘this isn’t me, and this isn’t the life I wanted.’ While I was still pursuing my college education, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t want my mom to have to support my son and me; I wanted to be the one taking care of my family.”
Parrish decided that the Marine Corps was the stable lifestyle she needed.
Parrish’s first test of will came during boot camp, where the hardest part was being apart from her son, but she turned her misery into the motivation to never quit.
“I did it for my son,” said Parrish. “I had to stick it out because I left my son at home for this opportunity. He was my motivation. Nothing anyone said or did was going to steer me away from that. I did it all for him.”
Parrish took to life after boot camp with ease. She understood the concept of working yourself up the chain of command and paying your dues. She took the examples of her leadership in all its forms.
From her time as a private first class, she naturally took leadership over others, according to Chief Warrant Officer Nemiah Johnson III, the ground supply operations officer for 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF.
“From the start, she stood out from her peers,” said Johnson. “The younger Marines would look to her for guidance; they naturally tended to lean on her.”
Parrish prefers to lead by setting a good example. She considers herself firm but fair, and does not hold grudges. She is a strong believer in second chances.
“I try my best to be personable with the Marines, but I am also very firm,” said Parrish. “I keep it professional and keep my personal problems at the door when I come to work. I deal with my Marines as they are. If they do something wrong, we fix it and discuss how to move forward.”
The Marines in Parrish’s section trust in her leadership and that she will help them overcome obstacles to better themselves.
“My Marines know that I will not hold their failures against them,” said Parrish. “You have to learn to move forward with your Marines because everyone makes mistakes.”
The Marines under her charge appreciate her steadfast ways, according to Lance Cpl. Chantelle Henderson, a supply administrative clerk for combat camera.
“She’s firm but steady and consistent,” said Henderson. “She has a genuine, continuous concern for the well-being of her Marines.”
As an avid runner, she still dreams of being an Olympic hopeful in 2016 and trains almost every day for it. In addition, Parrish also takes online classes and has three years of college under her belt.
However, with all the things she has on her plate, the hardest thing she does is raise her son as a single parent in the military.
“It’s tough,” said Parrish. “People normally have their support systems, their mom, dad, sisters and brothers, to help with a baby. For military personnel, being a single parent brings on a whole new meaning. Typically, it’s just you and your child.”
Parrish attributes her understanding senior leadership to helping her with her obligations as a single parent, but she does not use it as an excuse to lose focus at work.
“I’m very dedicated to my work,” said Parrish. “If I’m at work, I’m working hard. I know that my senior leadership doesn’t have to allow me to leave early or take a day off. Your work determines how your chain of command takes care of you. So I take pride in my work ethic.”
Parrish’s work and dedication have spoken for themselves, according to Johnson. Her professionalism is an example others should learn from.
“I wish that more (noncommissioned officers) were like her,” said Johnson. “She’s the embodiment of what an NCO should be. I would pick her to be on my team for any dangerous mission.”
All the opportunities that the Marine Corps has given her have left her with a deep love for the organization. If she finds herself speaking to a less-than-motivated Marine, she tries to remind them of all the chances for success the Marine Corps provides.
“The Marine Corps is an awesome organization,” said Parrish. “I pump it up to all my Marines. The Marine Corps (provides) a paycheck on the 1st and 15th, and unlimited gym, dental, and medical benefits. If you look at all the opportunities (it) offers, then you realize that these benefits are hard to find elsewhere.”
Parrish was not always this organized with her life. She understands that Marines need time to find themselves, and she urges all Marines to keep true to the core values in the Marine Corps if they want to succeed in this lifestyle.
“Hold dear the basics, as they are what really separate the good Marines from the mediocre,” said Parrish. “Have pride in your work and your appearance. Remember your customs and courtesies. Don’t fall back into the bad habits the Marine Corps has broken you of. Find your source of motivation and never forget it.”