Fort Lauderdale, Fla. --
Fort Lauderdale, Fla –The Marines have been known as the “The Few. The Proud.” since the slogan was adopted in 1977. While those who claim the title of Marine make up less than 1% the nation’s population, there are even fewer who earn the opportunity to lead Marines as commissioned officers. There are many paths to becoming a United States Marine Corps Officer. One of those is through the, Marine Option Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Scholarship. This scholarship is afforded to those who embody the Marine Corps’ core values of honor, courage and commitment. The scholarship is valued at up to $180,000 and pays for the cost of full tuition, books, and other educational fees. Once awarded, selectees have the ability to choose any university in the country that has a Marine Corps option within their NROTC unit.
Across the county, hundreds of young men and women will apply for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but for Rachel Peet-Mercado, an Academia Adventista del Suroeste student, it is now a reality.
“Originally, I wasn’t interested in joining the Marines, but after talking with a recruiter and seeing what they were about I just really liked it,” she said. “I learned who the Marines are and what they do. I fell in love with the idea and decided I wanted to be a Marine.”
Staff Sgt. Luis Peralta, Recruiting Substation Ponce’s station commander, first met Peet while she was in the Civil Air Patrol cadets and was looking for an Air Force recruiter. After hearing what Peralta had to say and what the Marines could offer, she decided on enlisting into the Marines instead.
“She was originally planning to enlist and to attend recruit training as soon as possible, but I realized she qualified for the NROTC scholarship and met expectations on what a future Marine Corps officer could be. There was nothing to lose by having her submit a package, only something for her to gain,” Peralta said. “She was showing good leadership traits, and other future Marines looked up to her as well and recommended her to be a squad leader; now she’s the guide for our RSS.”
Peet, now having been awarded the scholarship, is both humbled and excited to begin her journey to becoming an officer in the Marine Corps, but realizes this is just the first step on her path to commissioning.
Approximately 1,000 young men and women across the U.S. submitted for the scholarship, with only 335 scholarships available this year. This year RS Fort Lauderdale submitted 22 packages to be considered during the boarding process, with the final selections being solidified in February. Every applicant who submits a package is “highly qualified,” said Capt. Vincent Rossetti, the executive officer for RS Fort Lauderdale. Exceptional qualities such as high GPAs and standardized test scores, outstanding community service, and leadership roles on sports teams and other clubs are just a few of the commonalities Rossetti sees as an applicant’s briefer.
Consequently, it is imperative that a briefer truly knows the intangible characteristics of each applicant in order to explain to the board why an individual is uniquely qualified for the scholarship.
“Every student I put on the board is mature, responsible, and smart enough to successfully graduate four years of college and receive their degree. Knowing each individual applicant’s qualities and highlighting their unique attributes that prove they will be successful is what will set them apart during selection,” Rossetti said. “Miss Peet-Mercado was probably one of the most brilliant young women I’ve spoken to over the past three years--extremely bright, very analytical, very cerebral.”
Though Peet-Mercado did not originally plan to commission, being able to serve and get her college education was an opportunity she felt like she could not pass up.
“I want to do something outside of my comfort zone and that’s part of the reason why I joined the Marines in the first place,” Peet said. “While I was in the delayed entry program, I was getting used to the other future Marines and the Marine recruiters. They made me a squad leader, which I wasn’t expecting. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone, be louder, and know how to express myself and guide other people.”
Peet plans to attend Florida State University to study civil engineering. Once she graduates and completes Marine Corps Officers Candidate School, she will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps to start her career in service to her country.
“I’m really excited, not everyone gets to have an opportunity like this,” Peet said. “I’m looking forward to becoming not only a Marine but an officer and being a part of something that’s bigger than myself, it’s a great honor.”