Marine Corps veteran, Carolina Flores was born Carolina Martinez in 1986, Guadalajara, Mexico to Jose and Teresa. She is the third oldest of eight children which includes oldest to youngest, Sandra, Memo, Carolina, Tony, Pricilla, Jesse, Steven and Raymond.
Jose immigrated to America where he worked as a welder for ten years. Following his dream, he invested in a fleet of four tow trucks opening a very successful towing service in La Puente, California. In 1987 he had saved enough to bring Teresa and 11-month-old Carolina to America. Eventually the rest of the family would also be reunited in California.
Carolina admits she was a teenager with an attitude, trying sometimes to stand out in her large family. “I was scrawny, tiny and feisty!” At Bassett High School in La Puente Carolina admits she often hung with the wrong crowd but was never a bad person. At school she excelled on the basketball court. She liked most classes but is clear “I hated math!” In her sophomore year during “Career Day” for seniors at her high school Carolina saw a Marine recruiter in his “blues” and knew what she wanted to do.
Carolina met with the recruiter in her senior year and began asking questions. He worked with Carolina to straighten up her life and improve her grades in order to qualify for the Marine Corps. When she graduated at seventeen, Carolina asked her father to sign the permission slip to enlist. He adamantly refused!
“I was not nice and told him when I turned 18, I was leaving.”
“My grandpa, who had served in the Mexican Army would take me weekly to go “shopping”. He would drop me off at the recruiter for an hour where I would train and take the entrance exam. When I turned 18, I secretly took the oath and was sworn into the Marines.”
“On September 12th, 2005 I woke my parents up at 5:30 a.m. and told them I was leaving, that the recruiter was outside in the car waiting for me. It didn’t go over well and I regretted for a long time how I handled it.”
(Carolina had wanted to be an MP but was three inches too short. She chose to train as a 3043, working in Logistics and Supply.)
Carolina arrived late at night with a busload of other new recruits at Perris Island, South Carolina. She has a vivid memory of the first Marine D.I. coming aboard the bus and “screaming his welcome to us” in a deep raspy voice.
“I immediately thought, Oh S***, what have I done!”
Carolina recalls standing at attention on the “notorious” yellow footprints outside the barracks. “It was a proud moment for me. It was scary but I was not going to back out even if it was intimidating. I was going to prove my dad wrong. Girls could do this!”
Carolina did well in basic until they were taken up into the rappelling tower, when she realized, “I was terrified of heights! I was sure I was going to die!” The women drill instructors were tough, pushed her through her fear, “assisted” her in her first repel and then had her do it a second time, on her own, to “prove to herself that she could do it.”
AIT was at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. Carolina spent three months there learning math, (remember high school!) “dinosaur” computer programs and learning how to support units preparing to deploy. Her training focused on obtaining and maintaining repair parts, track parts, communication parts such as radios, parts for 7 tons and other required parts for tactical vehicles.
PFC Martinez was sent to the 1st Maintenance Battalion based at Camp Pendleton, California arriving there in December of 2006. She was specifically assigned to Area 21, a beachfront area where Marines trained for beach assaults. (This battalion provides maintenance support to the I Marine Expeditionary Forces as well as numerous other deployed Marine units.) Carolina was one of four female Marines in her unit of thirty.
Carolina loved the Marines and was determined to make the Corps her career. Many members of her unit would deploy to overseas assignments however Carolina was held back several time due to her job being “essential” to the success of each deployment.” She received several positive job performance evaluations written by her CWO for her excellent work. “CWO Perris was very crucial in my success as a Marine. He gave me confidence. He told me, a PFC, that I was “in charge” of preparing the various Expeditionary units to deploy. “You run the show.”
In one instance her team was given a week to gather equipment and do all the paperwork to allow a unit to do a short notice deployment. Carolina had the task completed in three days. For her efforts she received a letter of appreciation from the commander and a meritorious promotion to Lance Corporal. (This was an especially moving ceremony as her parents, unable to attend basic graduation, were present for her promotion.)
A fellow Marine in the 1st Maint. Battalion, an Amtrac mechanic, one Bryan Flores, who hailed from Clearwater, Florida began expressing interests in Carolina, which she strongly rebuffed at first. Long story short, one day while walking past the men’s barracks, Carolina heard the song “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd, one of her favorites, blasting away. When she discovered it was Brian playing it, she thought “maybe he has some good qualities after all!” Six months later on February 6th, 2007 they were married in San Marcos, California.
Being married to someone in the military can be tough, double that when both spouses are enlisted. Bryan received orders to deploy to Thailand and then Iraq leaving behind a very pregnant Carolina. Their daughter Alina was four months old before Brian returned home.
A serious conflict developed when Bryan said he wanted to leave the Marines at the end of his contract, but Carolina deeply wanted to reenlist. This put a serious strain on the marriage. The turning point in Carolina’s life and decision making occurred when she was finally put on the deployment roster and scheduled to be gone for 6-12 months. The military requires that children have guardianship turned over to a non-military family member while the soldier is deployed. Carolina assigned that to her mother, vacated her apartment and prepared to deploy. The day before she was to leave for Afghanistan, she was informed she had been removed from the roster because she only had two months left on her contract. She had intended to re-up while on deployment. The Marine Corps decided they wanted her to reenlist before any deployment.
Her mother sat her down and asked her to consider: “What was more important? Being able to say she had deployed like a good Marine? Or to stay home, raise her infant daughter and salvage her marriage.”
“It was a brutal 24 hours as I thought through what my next life decision would be. The military had given me so much. I had so much I wanted to accomplish in the Corps. Did I want to deploy for the right reasons?”
When the next morning came, she had decided to stay home and leave the Corps when her time was up.
“I had done everything they have asked to do. My unit was ready to deploy. My task was complete. I had enough vacation time accrued I was able to EAS from the Marine Corps. I was now focused on what was best for my family.” (Bryan was also honorably discharged around the same time.)
Bryan’s mother lived in Ottawa, Ohio so the family moved there to be closer to his family. In 2010 both Carolina and Bryan enrolled at the University of Findlay. Carolina would graduate with a Criminal Justice degree in 2015. Bryan followed a year later with a degree in Computer Science-Cyber Security in 2016. The family would move to Florida in 2016 for Bryan’s work but have since returned to Ohio, putting down roots by buying a home in Findlay. Carolina is putting her Criminal Justice degree to good use working as a Child Advocate at the Center for Safe and Healthy Children, a Child Advocacy Center, in Findlay.
In 2011 their son Nathan joined the family. Besides work Carolina keeps busy with her daughter’s involvement in soccer and cheerleading. Her son is active in soccer and baseball. Carolina is also proud of the fact her home is the safe gathering spot for many of the neighborhood children. They also have two furry babies, Lennox and Jack.
(Carolina still regrets she never deployed as a Marine. “Because I didn’t deploy, I can’t join groups like VFW. Sometimes I feel I didn’t do enough. I wanted to give back to the country that gave me everything, something selfless and not for my interest.”)
Thank you, Corporal Carolina Flores for your service! Semper Fi Marine!