Born In A Russian Prison, She’s Now A Trailblazing Infantry Marine

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Maria Daume, one of the first female Marines to enlist into the Corps on an infantry contract, made history March 23 when she graduated from the School of Infantry East at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. Daume is the first female Marine to join the infantry through its traditional training pipeline; she’ll join the Fleet Marine Force as a mortarman, one of the combat arms fields opened to women last year. But her remarkable story began 18 years ago and 6,000 miles away, in Russia.


Daume and her twin brother, Nikolai, were born in a prison in Siberia, where their mother was incarcerated. When the twins were 2 years old, their mother died, and they lived in an orphanage in Moscow until they were adopted by an American family living on New York’s Long Island.

Related: She Was Born In A Russian Prison And Became A US Marine. The Infantry Is Next »

Daume distinguished herself at the School of Infantry, where her training included scaling 56-inch walls in full gear, lifting 80-pound weapons systems overhead, and moving a 200-pound “simulated casualty” dummy to safety, according to VOA News. Not to mention a 12-mile hike while carrying her 60mm mortar system and four rounds.

“She was right at the top of the pack,” Sgt. Matthew Schneider, a mortar instructor at the School of Infantry, told VOA in an interview.

A lifelong athlete, mixed martial artist, and competitive spirit, Daume said her decision to enlist in the infantry came down to one thing: She wanted to personally clobber America’s enemies.

“I want to fight ISIS,” Daume told Task & Purpose in an interview in January. “Even though everybody in the military fights, I want to be a grunt. I think everything about it is for me, and I want to prove that females can do it.”

Now, she’ll have her chance.

Daume’s graduation makes her the fourth female infantry Marine. Three female Marines currently serve with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, and Daume will head to Camp Pendleton, where she’s been assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

The battalion’s nickname is “the magnificent bastards.”

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas
Ryan Kules

Editor's note: A combat wounded veteran, Ryan served in the U.S. Army as an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 13th Armor Regiment. While deployed to Iraq in 2005, his vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device buried in the road. He works as the Wounded Warrior Project's national Combat Stress Recovery Program director.

On Nov. 29, 2005, my life changed forever. I was a 24-year-old U.S. Army armor captain deployed to Taji, Iraq, when my vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. On that day, I lost two of my soldiers, Sgts. Jerry Mills and Donald Hasse, and I lost my right arm and left leg.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

CAMP PENDLETON — Susan and Michael McDowell attended a memorial in June for their son, 1st Lt. Conor McDowell. Kathleen Isabel Bourque, the love of Conor's life, joined them. None of them had anticipated what they would be going through.

Conor, the McDowells' only child, was killed during a vehicle rollover accident in the Las Pulgas area of Camp Pendleton during routine Marine training on May 9. He was 24.

Just weeks before that emotional ceremony, Alexandrina Braica, her husband and five children attended a similar memorial at the same military base, this to honor Staff Sgt. Joshua Braica, a member of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion who also was killed in a rollover accident, April 13, at age 29.

Braica, of Sacramento, was married and had a 4 1/2-month-old son.

"To see the love they had for Josh and to see the respect and appreciation was very emotional," Alexandrina Braica said of the battalion. "They spoke very highly of him and what a great leader he was. One of his commanders said, 'He was already the man he was because of the way he was raised.' As parents, we were given some credit."

While the tributes helped the McDowells and Braicas process their grief, the families remain unclear about what caused the training fatalities. They expected their sons eventually would deploy and put their lives at risk, but they didn't expect either would die while training on base.

"We're all still in denial, 'Did this really happen? Is he really gone?' Braica said. "When I got the phone call, Josh was not on my mind. That's why we were at peace. He was always in training and I never felt that it would happen at Camp Pendleton."

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(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States looks set to break a promise not to hold military exercises with South Korea, putting talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons at risk, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The United States' pattern of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" is leading Pyongyang to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the ministry said in a pair of statements released through state news agency KCNA.

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(Courtesy of Roman Sabal)

A deported Marine Corps veteran who has been unable to come back to the U.S. for more than a decade was denied entry to the country Monday morning when he asked to be let in for a scheduled citizenship interview.

Roman Sabal, 58, originally from Belize, came to the San Ysidro Port of Entry around 7:30 on Monday morning with an attorney to ask for "parole" to attend his naturalization interview scheduled for a little before noon in downtown San Diego. Border officials have the authority to temporarily allow people into the country on parole for "humanitarian or significant public benefit" reasons.

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Jeff Schogol

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.

Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.

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