November 04, 2021

Military career brings strength and purpose

By: Mykayla Capeles

Crystal Marks’ grandfather was in the Navy, but she didn’t think she would join. After high school she enrolled at Greenville Tech, where she learned more about the military lifestyle and decided it would be a good path for her.

She liked the strength and purpose the military gave her and decided to enlist in the Army while at Greenville Tech with hopes to transfer to South Carolina.

“I had people tell me, ‘Yay! Good job,’ but I also had people say, ‘What do you think you’re doing? You’re crazy,” Marks said. “But to me, you can’t be wrong. If it’s what you want then how can it be wrong?”

In 2013, Marks deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan for her first tour. While there, she received the news no one wants to hear. It was a call from home saying her mother passed away. This was a low point in Marks’ career since she couldn't be there with her mother before her passing. She left Afghanistan on emergency leave to be with her family and loved ones. After the funeral, Marks knew she had to decide what to do for the rest of her life. She decided to go back to Afghanistan to finish her tour. While still grieving the loss of her mother, she received a package a month later that gave her guidance on the next phase of her life, the letter that said she was accepted to the University of South Carolina. 

“It was a turning point for me, something to hold on to and to stay encouraged in my life,” Marks said. “It was a very weird year because something terrible happened but then something good happened all while in this third world country.” 

Marks wished she had stayed in the service longer but served in the National Guard for nine years and went on one tour. At South Carolina, she supported Black History Month by volunteering for the MLK Day of Service. A day organized to support your local community in various ways. She remembers the direct impact made by helping organize volunteers for Harvest Hope Food Bank.

UofSC is proud of Veterans and creates an environment that works for them. Marks took full advantage of UofSC discounts, assistance in adjusting classes for drill schedules, access to join the Veterans Student Association, and honoring Veterans with the Veteran Day breakfast.

While at UofSC, Marks graduated with a degree in psychology and a minor in sociology. She is currently getting her master's in criminal justice at Columbia College with hopes to return to UofSC to get her Ph.D.  

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