WATERBURY, Conn. - Bianca Saunders stands 5-feet tall and weighs just under 100 pounds. On Dec. 20, 2013 she did something many people thought she was incapable of – she earned the title Marine.
Saunders, a 23-year-old native of Wolcott, Conn., said she wanted to become a Marine for as long as she could remember. Her father and two of her uncles were Marines and she aspired to be like them.
After graduating from Wolcott High School in 2009, an 18-year-old Saunders did not reach for her dreams. She weighed 85 pounds and feared her physical stature could not endure the rigors of recruit training.
“I wouldn’t have made it then,” she said. “I wasn’t ready for it.”
Four years later, Saunders finally attempted to enlist in the Marine Corps.
“I didn’t want to keep working at Dunkin' Donuts and the mall,” she said, “so I came into the recruiting office and did it.”
Unfortunately her weight was still an issue, and her physical abilities greatly lacked.
“Everyone doubted me; the (executive officer), the (commanding officer), the sergeant major, they knew about me before I even met them,” she said. “It’s because I come across as weak minded and small.”
While enrolled in the Delayed Entry Program, Saunders was unable to pass her Initial Strength Test and seemed to lack motivation. The Recruiting Station Springfield command staff did not think she would be able to make it through recruit training and wanted to drop her from the DEP.
“My whole life I have been looked at different because I am small and seem unmotivated,” she said. “I don’t give off the right impression at first.”
However, the Marines at the recruiting office where willing to work with her to get her in shape. She attended regular physical training sessions and over time built the strength she needed to attend recruit training with a weight waiver.
“My last IST I did almost 70 crunches, which was a major improvement from what I started with, which was nine,” she said.
However, the command staff still had concerns about her physical abilities. On the day she shipped to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., she had a conversation with Capt. Thomas Abbott, the XO of RS Springfield. During their conversation, two promises were made.
Saunders promised that she would make it through the training and make it to her graduation date of Dec. 20. Abbott promised he would fly down to see her graduation if she did.
On Dec. 19, Abbott flew down to see Saunders graduate.
“When he came down and saw me, he told me how proud he was of me that I proved him wrong,” she said. “It was also nice to finally see him smile.”