Veteran Article Written by Female Veteran of the Quarter Cleopatra Jones…
I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. My parents moved to Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico, when I was three years old. At the age of five, my parents moved us, once again, this time to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
My parents always thought of their children first and foremost – they wanted to give us a better life. In Philadelphia, I attended the Incarnation of Our Lord School and later went to Cardinal Dougherty High School, or CDHS, graduating with top honors. I received a college scholarship, but I chose to enlist in the United States Marine Corps in 1981.
Soon thereafter, the head nun and principal of CDHS came knocking at our door, very upset. The nun was quick to reprimand my mother because she “permitted me to throw away my scholarship” and join the U.S. Marine Corps. My mom was appalled. When I look back now, becoming a Marine was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
I went to basic training, or boot camp, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. There, I spent 13 weeks feeding the sand fleas during the summer of 1981. I arrived with painted nails and toenails, black eyeliner, corvette red lipstick, and topped off with a full “updo” hairstyle, which was made possible thanks to an entire can of hair spray.
“Whew… Was I in for a rude awakening.”
After boot camp, I remained at Parris Island for Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, learning my Military Occupational Specialty, MOS 0151, which is an administrative clerk. I completed all my initial training by 1982.
My first assignment after AIT was at Twentynine Palms, or 29 Palms, in San Bernardino County, California. The place was pure desert and complete with 120-degree weather on the daily. I had to get adjusted to the climate change and did not have PT for about six weeks. That place was where my Marine Corps journey truly began.
While there, I attended College of the Desert and received a degree in business management. I started a family, getting married to a man named Rodney, and together we had a son – Rodrell Darren Jennings. When Rodrell was just three, we received orders to Okinawa, Japan, where we spent a year.
Some of my other duty stations have been Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; Camp Pendleton, California; and has traveled to places like Seoul, South Korea. No matter what country or continent I was in, my mother always called on my birthday and sent me treats and cards. Like many Devil Dogs, mail call was one of the highlights of my days in the Marine Corps!
It was not easy being a woman in the Marines, which is still the most physically demanding branch of our military and the one with the smallest percentage of female service members – just 7.6 percent.
I’ve always believed, “if you could do the Marine Corps, you could do anything and succeed at anything in life.”
Like I said, joining the USMC was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It wasn’t always “rainbows and unicorns,” but it made me the strong, self-confident, independent woman that I am today. I’m very thankful for the friends that I made and the experiences I had.
I received my honorable discharge at Camp Pendleton as a sergeant and moved back home, where I spent three years as a Marine Reservist at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
After totally getting out of the Marines, I started a long career, working my interesting jobs. I worked at the Philadelphia Airport, United States Postal Service, Alamo Rent a Car, Delaware Open MRI, the Delaware Department of Labor, and the United States Senate.
Since 2019, I’ve worked as a constituent advocate in the Office of U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) In the Senate, I draw on my live experiences. As a Senate staffer, I’m responsible for helping constituents with questions and issues with immigration, veterans, military, and postal service.
With my military experience and my passion for fellow veterans, I love helping veterans, active military members, and their families. I’m now married to Kevin Jones, and have three children and nine grandchildren.
We live in Bear, Delaware, and I’m very active in my local church, Victory Christian Fellowship, where I’ve worshipped for the last 20 years. I consider myself firm in my faith, and Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life. I’m currently a dance ministry co-leader, children’s ministry dance leader, and also a Sunday school teacher.
“God Bless Our Troops, our Veterans, and the United States of America. Semper Fidelis. Oorah!”
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