Semper Fi and Looking to the Future

April 4, 2023

When her high school days end in a few months, Gardner plans to join the Corp of Cadets at Texas A&M and become a Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyer for the Marines, something she’s inspired to do both from her time as ROTC cadet colonel and as a life-long Marine dependent.

“I’ve always grown up in a Marine Corps culture. My dad was in the Marine Corps for thirty years. I’ve been a Marine Corps brat since the day I was born. I have a teddy bear that has the Marine Corps emblem on it. It says ‘the few, the proud’ on the back. I still have it. I like the idea of going into that because I’ve seen that culture and I know that I like it,” said Gardner.

In fact, she and her family joke that she’s been devoted to the Marines since even before being born — they had to induce her mom’s labor so Sarah could be born in time for her dad’s orders to move to Japan.

Despite her childhood on Marine bases, she considered joining the Air Force for a while. Every high school ROTC is affiliated with one of the branches, and Boerne ISD’s program is funded by the Air Force, so all of Gardner’s instructors are retired airmen. However, she decided she loves the loyalty and intensity of the Marines –– like their motto, semper fidelis, which means always faithful –– too much not to be a part of it.

“My instructor came to me and asked because I’m a Marine Corps brat, ‘Why is it that people will be in the Air Force for twenty years, and they’ll get out and go get a civilian job, and then one day you’ll find out, oh, Ted was in the Air Force for twenty years. And you’ll be like, oh, I never knew that. But if somebody goes to the Marine Corps and they’re there for like two years, they get semper fi tattooed on their forehead?’ Because they’re proud of it. I want to wake up and be proud of what I do every day,” said Gardner.

Gardner, center, and other members of BISD’s ROTC program during a competition last February. (Boerne AFJROTC Instagram)

She’s also inspired by the story of how her dad became a Marine, and cites it as one of the main reasons she loves the branch.

“My dad wasn’t a bad student,” said Gardner. “He played football in high school. But he was really overweight. He didn’t want to go to college. It wasn’t that he wasn’t smart; it’s just that he didn’t want to spend four more years in school. And he went to the army, and the army was like, ‘Hey, you’re fat. Come back when you’re not.’ They treated him really poorly. He was kind of out of hope. 

“Then, he got a call from a Marine Corp recruiter, who was like, ‘Would you like to join the Marine Corps?’ My dad said, ‘I don’t think you understand. I’m almost 300 pounds.’ And the recruiter was like, ‘Well okay. Come into my office and we’ll talk.’ So my dad went. He wasn’t expecting much. But the guy was like, ‘I’m not going to treat you like you’re stupid. Obviously, you need to lose weight. However, I’m going to help you.’ 

“This was all during my dad’s senior year, so his recruiter would get him up in the mornings and go on runs with him. He’d plan out his diet for him. He helped him through that. My dad lost a whole bunch of weight — enough to get into the recruit program. 

“My dad’s actually really smart. He’s good at science and really good at math. So when people see his ASVAB scores, they always ask him, with those scores, why would you put yourself through the Marine Corp? That’s a lot of physical exertion. Why did you do that? You could have been in the Air Force or another branch. He always says, well, they didn’t want me. I went where I was wanted. Where people wanted me and cared about me.”

In the Marines, Gardner wants to be a JAG lawyer, a type of lawyer she didn’t know existed before her time in ROTC.

“They always show in the movies that if you go into the military you’re going to be a war hero and you’re going to get shot at and you’re going to die,” said Gardner. “That’s why most moms when they hear their kid’s going to go in the military think it’s a one-way ticket to a flag-draped coffin. And it’s not. I learned there’s other jobs out there in the military that aren’t shooting a gun on the front lines.”

As someone who’s fascinated by law, criminal justice, and government — she plans to major in political science in college — Gardner feels that military law gives her a chance to explore as much of it as possible.

“What’s really great about being a JAG lawyer — and this is why I think it’s better than civilian law — is that in the civilian world, you would pick a path. You would be an environmental lawyer or a family court lawyer or a criminal lawyer or something like that,” said Gardner. “But in the military, you kind of do it all. You kind of do whatever they tell you to do. You could be talking to generals about the rules of war. You could be on a base doing family law. Or arguing the point on something with some company that’s suing the military. You get to do all sorts of different types of law. I really like the idea of not being set.”

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Amy Steward, Editor-in-Chief

Hi there! I'm your editor, Amy Steward, and this is my fourth and final year with the newspaper. I've been doing journalism-type-things for as long as...

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