When Shannon Ihrke joined the United States Marines Corps at 19 years old, she was looking to make a big change in her life. She was a small town girl from northern Minnesota who had grown up traipsing through the woods, following her father’s every footsteps. She enjoyed a variety of outdoor sports, from riding 4-wheelers, to fishing, hunting, camping, and horseback riding, but after graduating high school, Shannon decided to take a more traditional path. She enrolled in St. Cloud State University, several hours south of her home, thinking that the safest answer would be the easiest. Three semesters in, she realized just how wrong she was.
Shannon was deeply unhappy with her university life, fearing how much debt she would have to repay after she finished, when she couldn’t even pay her bills then, even with two jobs. After speaking with an on campus recruiter, Shannon decided to give it all up in order to join the US Military. Though she had considered all of the branches, the recruiters tough as nails attitude and doubt in her ferocity convinced her that intensity of the Marines was the right place to be. Shannon hopped on a plane only a few weeks later to South Carolina, where she would begin basic training alongside the other women who enlisted at Parris Island.
What Shannon discovered during her service was a work ethic that would prepare her for any future endeavor she wished to pursue. She had to learn to be incredibly disciplined, constantly training both her mind and her body, but she also learned how to be a leader. As her service drew to an end, Shannon had a decision to make. She loved the Marines and the new family it had given her, but she also had bigger aspirations. Using the drive and ambition that inspired her to join the Corps in the first place, she decided to see what happened if she set off to pursue her dreams. Though she will always be a soldier at heart, Shannon found that she had a glamorous second life waiting for her on the other side.