Chandra - Apache Junction, Arizona
Entered on December 3, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

As a little girl having three brothers, it never occurred to me that I was different. We would play war games, build tree forts, make mud pies, and do all the things that boys would do. That was until the day I saw a cardboard sign hanging from the entrance to our tree fort that read “No GIRLS Allowed!” Of course, I went and tattled on the boys. My mother said, “sometimes you have to let the boys play by themselves.” This did not make any sense to me; we always had fun and I put forth just as much effort in our endeavors as they did. I was going to do whatever it took to get back into the tree fort. I believe in determination.

Years later I was living my dream; I was a fire fighter recruit. My class was at the end of a vigorous six-month academy; all that was left to accomplish was the physical agility test. I was anxious, yet confident. There were twenty-five candidates, and I was the only girl. Throughout the entire academy, I felt the boys did not accept me. They would say and do things to see if I would give up, and at times I thought I might, but determination continually kicked in.

Before the agility test started, we were briefed about how to proceed through the course and what our placement in line would be. The instructor advised us that we would be placed in random order, some candidates were happy with their position, but as chance (or suspect) would have it, my position was dead last. Random…. sure it was. I was terrified; this was it, the mental part of the test. I was not only going to have to complete the same physical demands of this test as the other candidates, but they were going to test my mentality.

Now, some of my peers believed in me, and some did not, but they all knew I was there for one reason only; I was determined to become a fire fighter. As a little girl I overcame being shunned by the boys and I was going to prove myself the same way as a woman.

All the candidates before me were done. With all of them watching, I proceeded through the course. I moved through the first few obstacles just as I had in practice. My mind was focused. As I approached the final obstacle, the body drag, I was struggling to take a breath, my legs felt rubbery, my lungs were aching, my heart was pounding so hard I could see the beats through my turnouts. At this point, I was unsure if I could drag this body across the finish line. Taking my first step backwards on wavering knees I heard cheering from the sidelines it was coming from the boys, all of them! I found my energy; it was coming through them. As I reached the finish line I received a pass from the instructor.

People have described me as pig-headed, stubborn, independent, focused, goal oriented, and persistent. I use the word determination, this I believe.