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    The Up and Down Hill - LCpl. Ericka ValenciaReyes

    The Up and Down Hill – LCpl. Ericka ValenciaReyes

    Photo By Cpl. Martha Linares | U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ericka ValenciaReyes, a postal clerk with Headquarters...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Martha Linares 

    Marine Corps Installations Pacific

    In the first phase of U.S. Marine Corps boot camp, Lance Cpl. Ericka ValenciaReyes fractured her pelvic bone.

    “When I went to medical, I had hopes of, ‘oh I'm not going to get dropped, I'll be fine’ but, when the doctor came, I saw his face and I just started to cry. I felt like a disappointment to my family and within myself because I thought that I went to boot camp prepared for it.”

    ValenciaReyes was transferred to the Female Recovery Platoon where she learned to be mentally strong while recovering from her injury. After making a full recovery, she went back to training and graduated with Papa Company and she is now a postal clerk with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, at the Camp Foster Post Office on Okinawa, Japan.

    At the post office, ValenciaReyes scans, organizes and places mail into their respective areas. She checks the post office boxes for old mail and sends notifications to the people they belong to. She closes out accounts and is accountable for the mail in the post office. She interacts daily with customers by delivering their mail and assisting with question they may have. Today she does all this in the post office. But she didn’t start here.

    “I wanted to challenge myself to actually get out of my comfort zone and do something different from the people my age,” said ValenciaReyes.

    Her parents separated when she was 9 years old, then she moved away with her mom and fell into a completely different environment.

    “I went to Mexico not knowing anything. There were times in school I was about to fail because it was that bad. I wasn't picking up with my class and everything. That was a struggle. It took me almost a year to be fluent [in Spanish].” She said when she turned 18, although she loved her time in Mexico and would miss her brother, who was 12 years younger than her, she decided to move back to North Carolina and live with her father.

    “One of the big reasons why I moved from Mexico is because I didn’t just want to do school. I wanted to do something different. So I went back to the States and I started by working at my uncle's restaurant until I applied for community college.” After a year and a half, ValenciaReyes started the process to enlist.

    She said, “I'm making good money but I'm not happy. I really want to join.”
    Her uncle, Jaime Adams, a prior U.S. Marine, talked to her about the Marine Corps. She contacted a recruiter in Wilmington, N.C., and was shipped off to Parris Island, South Carolina in 2021. After breaking her pelvic bone, she spent 4 months in FRP, but successfully graduated in February of 2022 and finished her Marine Corps training.

    “Once I got my orders, I was like ‘what is postal?’” she said.
    Postal Clerks across all branches of the military learn in a joint environment about their job on Fort Jackson, S.C. For over a month, clerks learn the ins and outs of accepting, sorting, manifesting and dispatching all types of mail, to include official mail before running the post offices across all military installations.


    “I was nervous because I didn't know how I was going to tell my dad [about the orders to Japan],” she said. “He was sad, but he did want me to live my life.”

    She started working at the Lester Post Office, where she became the assistant postal clerk, but said her physical fitness and mental health dropped.

    “I did have ups and downs. It was all last year when I was going downhill,” she said. “I was taught that instead of crying, I had to distract myself, so I never allowed myself to feel the negative emotions.”

    While sitting down on her bed, watching a show during a four-day weekend, she said a million thoughts raced through her mind. She thought of her brother who she hadn’t seen in a long time and realized she needed to change her way of thinking.

    “I was like, what am I doing? I can't just be like, sitting down. I can't just, like, be sad. I'm tired of it,” she said.

    According to Oxford Languages, motivation is the reason or reasons why a person behaves or acts a certain way. ValenciaReyes, like many other Marines, has felt their motivation and mental health slip. The importance of mental health within the Marine Corps has significantly increased during recent years and Commanders have provided many resources to help Marines, such as MCCS, Military OneSource, and Family Advocacy Program.

    U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Eric Charpentier, a custodian of postal effects with the Camp Foster Post Office, MCIPAC, from Rhode Island, speaks greatly of ValenciaReyes. “She’s got such a great work ethic for a young Marine. She takes the initiative to get things done,” he said. “She does everything above and beyond.”

    ValenciaReyes continues to work hard and persevere through the challenges she encounters.

    “My advice would be just be mentally prepared, have an open mind about the ups and downs, and find a balance within.”



    Date Taken: 01.11.2024
    Date Posted: 01.23.2024 23:48
    Story ID: 462241
    Hometown: WILMINGTON, NC, US

    Web Views: 65
    Downloads: 0