News: Olympic gold medalist helps reenlist Arrowhead soldier
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Enlisting in today's all-volunteer Army is a big deal. Reenlisting in the Army during a time of war is an even bigger deal, which is why Hope Solo, an American soccer goalkeeper and a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Richland, Wash., was on hand for the reenlistment of Spc. Diana Zuniga at Memorial Stadium in Seattle March 27.
Zuniga, a native of Rochester, N.Y., and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran who has served for the last three years, made the special reenlistment request.
"I went up to Staff Sergeant [Arthur] Hamilton and said 'hey, like, there are these national soccer team members, Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, and it'd be kind of cool if I could have them at my reenlistment ceremony," Zuniga explained. "I wasn't sure if he could make it happen, but here we are!"
Zuniga, an intelligence analyst for 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, and a lifelong soccer fan who grew up watching her parents' teams from Columbia and Guatemala play, explained that her desire to have Solo and Rapinoe at her reenlistment was due to her admiration of both women.
"I just look up to strong women who are not afraid to go after what they want," Zuniga said. "You can have anything you want if you go for it and you work for it. I read [Solo's] memoir a couple months ago and it reiterated all the qualities that I've tried to develop as a person; she embodies those."
Solo said she was honored to have been asked to participate in Zuniga's reenlistment ceremony.
"You have to understand that serving our country runs in my family," Solo said. "So, I was really honored when I found out about it."
The reenlistment almost didn't happen as Zuniga and Solo's schedules were not in-synch until the last week of March when Solo returned to Seattle.
"For her to actually wait for both of us to be in town meant a lot, because she's our hero," Solo said. "I don't see us as being her hero; all I do is kick a soccer ball and dive around. But she's putting her life at risk and I'm honored; truly honored."
For Zuniga, the wait was worth it.
"I am beyond grateful. It almost still seems surreal," Zuniga said. "I was driving up here with my [boss]. He was asking me if I'm nervous. It still almost doesn't feel real, but I'm so grateful and really thankful."