By the time most young adults reach the age of 18, they have to start planning out their future. Of course going straight to a 4-year college after graduating high school seems like the norm, it isn’t always the best option for everyone. We all are familiar with those people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives well before they finished high school. We all have those friends who always knew they wanted to be doctors or lawyers or whatever, and so when the time came to apply to college- choosing a degree wasn’t even a question. However, we also are well aware of many, maybe even including ourselves, who chose a random degree just in order to go to college right after high school, because a general degree is better than no degree right?
The problem is, that at 18, we are still so young. Maybe it is okay if you don’t know what you want to do right away. And while going to college just to get a degree is also a decent option, and usually the most accepted by society, maybe taking a break and finding yourself is a better one. And maybe, taking time to find an alternative option to college is an even better decision.
This is exactly what Shannon, a young woman from a small town in Minnesota, chose to do after realizing going straight to college wasn’t a fit for her. She took a brave leap of faith and decided to enlist in the Marines. Although the recruiter initially judged her solely based on her looks, she was set off to prove everyone wrong. She was stereotyped throughout boot camp where everyone, even the fellow woman in the group, would stare her down and say that she was too pretty and not strong enough to survive the grueling training. Although it was no picnic, she successfully graduated from boot camp, proving to everyone that she is more than just a pretty face.
After several years in the Marines, Shannon decided to move on to her next journey in life. After years of trying to act like a “man” and wearing the same clothes everyday, she decided to choose a more glamorous career path. Although her current job is almost the polar opposite of her job in the Marines, she continues to use the discipline and values that she learned during her time in the military
Searching for an alternative
Shannon didn’t always dream of serving in the military. In fact, she went to college after graduating high school like most 18-year-old Americans do. However, after a couple years of studying at her university, she was hugely disappointed. She felt like she wasn’t learning what she wanted to learn and felt that life on campus was unfulfilling and dull. She was looking for something bigger, something more. So, she started to search for an alternative solution.
Small town girl
Shannon grew up in Walker, a little town in Minnesota. Growing up in the country definitely had its advantages. Since she was a little girl, she was already able to take care of herself.. She grew up close to the serine Leech Lake, and she loved spending time fishing and boating. She also enjoyed other outdoor activities such as horseback riding and hunting. She never felt like a girly girl, and was often considered as being “one of the guys.” As much as she loved her country lifestyle, she wanted something more.
After she graduated high school, she thought the best decision would be to attend a local college and study marketing. However, it was getting harder to keep up with the cost of tuition so she took up two jobs. She was struggling trying to balance college life, studying and work. She found herself questioning whether all of this was even worth it. She decided it was time for a change.
Shannon tried to look at and evaluate her options. She realized that she could either continue fighting to finish her studies, or drop out of school and find a full-time job. She wasn’t satisfied with either of the two options, and started to feel intense pressure. Then one day, she was strolling through campus and she saw a sign. It was an advertisement for army enlistment. Although she had never considered it a possibility before, she found herself intrigued.
After that moment, she started to get excited. She started looking into the different enlistment options. She spoke with a Marines recruiter right away, only to be let down when he informed her that she probably wouldn’t make it. He saw her as a pretty, blonde girl and nothing else. However, she knew that she was way more than that and she was down for the challenge. So, she signed up and enlisted to the Marines.
The new soon-to-be Marine headed to South Carolina, where she started training in boot camp. Even though she knew the training was not going to be easy, it was a challenge she was more than willing to accept. Even though everyone only saw her as a little delicate flower, she didn’t let them get to her. She knew in her heart that she was going to show everyone just how tough she really is.
Looking up to her idol
In a recent interview, Shannon recalled, “A lot of the Marines initially thought that I might not be able to keep up physically, or that I somehow wasn’t ‘as strong’ as them so I made it my mission to prove them wrong.” She explained that whenever she felt like she couldn’t possibly do another sit up or push up, she would think of her idol- Mulan. She would picture herself “sitting on top of the pillar” proving all of the soldiers below her wrong.
Tough as nails
Shannon was sure that the toughest weapon she had was her attitude. As long as she kept her head up, and maintained a positive attitude, she could overcome anything. She once said, “I came in guns blazing in order to show that I wasn’t someone that could be pushed around, brushed off, or not taken seriously. It was hard but it was also completely necessary.” She explained that other soldiers who appeared tough, would often break down under the pressure. She was determined to stand out as a solider, and not just as female.
After she finished boot camp, she received her first job. She got assigned to work in an office as administrative specialist, and would remain in South Carolina. For Shannon, she felt like it was the perfect job. Not only could she use her sharp mind and positive attitude towards her new job, she could also represent the Marines. Even in an office position, she felt optimistic about her new position. She believed that any job working for the Marines, even one at an office, is satisfying.
After two years in the South Carolina office, she was sent to another office located in Illinois. Although she was sad to say goodbye to her coworkers in South Carolina, she was excited to be returning to the Midwest. She felt a weight lift off of her. She had missed her family and hometown very much, and was exciting to be finally working closer to home.
Respected and admired
Shannon’s transfer wasn’t just a change of location, it was also a promotion. Since she did so well in her previous role, the Marines quickly advanced her to a new, more challenging position as an Inspector Instructor. The role gave her a chance to use her leadership skills. She flourished in her new role, and was respected and admired by everyone in her squad. The soldiers in her squad all treated her with great respect. When the time came for her to leave the Marines, she was titled sergeant.
During Shannon’s time in the military, she gained not only great experience and training, but also a close group of friends. Her fellow soldiers became like family over the years. She and her friends were able to share a close bond that she didn’t share with any of her friends or family back home, and that was the bond of the same passion to serve their country. Going into the Marines, she was only thinking about being strong and surviving. She had no idea that she would form life-long friends along the way.
Time to reflect
Shannon spends a lot of time reflecting on her service in the Marines, she said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.” Shannon continued, “I became part of something that was bigger than myself and I loved it.” She explained that the lessons she learned in the Marines she will bring with her for the rest of her life.
During her last few months as a Marine, Shannon chose to do something a bit different and entered herself for a contest to appear in Maxim magazine. Although she initially entered the competition just for fun, she got a big surprise when she became a finalist. Although she didn’t win, she did get pretty close. She decided not to rule out modeling as her next career, but she knew she needed a more serious backup plan.
Back to school
After she discharged from the Marines, Shannon decided to get back into college. She attended Elmhurst College in Chicago where she would finish her marketing degree, and even added a minor in science. While she was a student, she thought it couldn’t hurt to attempt more glam career choices, so she entered her next competition- as a radio station’s “Loop Rock Girl”. To her surprise, she was selected.
Official Loop Rock Girl
Before Shannon took the title of Loop Rock Girl, the title typically was given to a new girl the following year. However, the radio station was so impressed with Shannon that they asked her to stay as an official Loop Girl. Shannon was thrilled with her new job, especially since it meant she could collect a nice salary and also introduced her to several modeling jobs, like posing in the radio station’s yearly calendar.
In the ring
Four years after being “one of the guys” Shannon finally had a chance to embrace her feminine side and feel glamorous during her photoshoots. Her start as Loop Rock Girl only encouraged her to keep searching for modeling gigs. Shannon eventually landed a job as a ring girl for MMA, this was a perfect fit considering it highlighted not only her stunning looks, but her charming personality.
Before she knew it, she was landing jobs in magazines and calendars left and right. When her former squad got sight of her new work, they were quite surprised. The Shannon they knew was often tough and screaming out orders. They never saw this feminine glamorous side of her before. In an interview Shannon explained, “Marines that I’ve worked with in the past are asking me to sign calendars and magazines for them and their friends now, and that’s kind of weird but very cool at the same time because it shows how supportive they are!”
Unfortunately, not everyone was thrilled with Shannon’s new career path, especially her parents. They weren’t pleased to say the least with Shannon’s suggestive poses and lack of clothing that her new job required. Shannon said, “My family is a very Christian and conservative family originally from a small town in Minnesota,” she continued, “When I started modeling, my mom said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ She wanted me to stay in the Marine Corps…”
Never forgetting her roots
In an interview, Shannon confessed, “Had I not had other dreams I still wanted to accomplish in my life I would have re-enlisted without hesitation… and although I am no longer on active duty, I will always bleed green.” No matter what happens with her new career path, she will always remember her military roots that made her into the strong-willed woman she is today.
Being a former Marine and model means that Shannon maintains a pretty strict work out regime. She admits that she spends a good chunk of time and effort making sure she remains fit. This includes going to the gym at least 4 days a week and maintaining healthy eating habits. She gets her exercise not only at the gym, but also by doing outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming and horseback riding.
Indulging in her favorites
However, despite her strict eating habits and fitness regime, she does allow herself to indulge every now and then. She shared some of her favorite meals, “My favorite foods include prime rib, bananas foster, french silk pie, and I’ve been known to crave a Big Mac or two!” The Marine/model also has a talent in the kitchen! Her specialties include, “biscuits and gravy, BBQ pulled chicken, caramel brownies and stuffed mushrooms.” Okay, we are getting hungry now..
A helping hand
Enlisting in the military has made Shannon eager to volunteer her time towards helping the greater good. After volunteering for several charities, she created her own charity called Committed to Courage which aims at “giving back to veterans who have served and for those who are currently serving.” Her charity aims especially at helping former soldiers smoothly transition into everyday life outside of the uniform.
Trouble with finances
Shannon explained that she herself had a difficult time transitioning between her life in the military to her life as a civilian. She said the hardest part was definitely dealing with expenses. While she had the military making her decisions for her for a long time, once she was discharged she suddenly had to make choices on her own, especially when it came to expenses. While she was enlisted the only bills she had to worry about were for her car and cell phone.
Although she left her Marine days behind in order to become a model, she still encourages others to enlist. She explained why so many dedicated their time and lives to the military. She revealed that for the most part, it has nothing to do with politics, but for the safety of their families and friends. “Some Marines fight for our politicians, but most, do not. We fight for our families, our friends, and most of all-for our brothers and sisters to the left and right of us in uniform.”
Finishing her degree
Even with her successful modeling career, Shannon made the smart decision to continue studying towards her degree until she graduated. Shannon confessed that the discipline that she learned during her time in the Marines made her able to balance studying and working as a model and pushed her to finish what she started at Elmhurst College.
Missing her family
Although Shannon is now living a glamorous life as a model, she refuses to forget about the time she spent in the Marines. She often reflects back to her military days fondly, and especially misses the friends and family she made while serving. “You gain a new family when you become a Marine. You live together, eat together, workout together, hang out in your spare time together, fight with each other, and yet you’ll still do anything for each other whether you like each other or not.”
Job after job
Since Shannon began her career as a model, she joined a website where she finds many of her jobs called Model Mayhem. After she appeared in the Maxim contest, the jobs were piling in. She later on got a job of a lifetime, were she appeared in Maxim. She later on landed jobs on the runway and appeared in several fashion shows. In many of her photo shoots, she would even include her patriotic roots by posing often with her army tags and in front of the flag.
The best of both worlds
After living the big city life in Chicago, Shannon finally decided she had enough and was ready to move back to her hometown in Minnesota. She continued on with her career as a model, it just meant having to travel more to photo shoots and shows. She took on a second job with her other passion, horses. She got a job training horses on a farm close to her home town in Minnesota. On her incredibly well-followed Instagram page, she often posts photos with the horses she trains in between her recent modeling shoots.
Words of wisdom
Shannon gives advice to other young women who are trying to find themselves, “Don’t ever stop pushing yourself, and don’t ever stop trying to get better and become a better person overall. That’s how I got where I am today.” She continued, “I constantly work at improving myself in every aspect. If a little girl from Walker, Minnesota can become a Marine and also successfully model, than the skies truly are the limit.”