Veteran encourages women in the Marines to lead by example to empower one another


Shanice Davis, Features Editor


Chrystal Zinni dedicated 10 years of service to the Marine Corps, her country and to her brothers and sisters, but due to a knee injury, her life took an unexpected turn.

Initially, Zinni had her mind set on going to the Air Force Academy, but as a result of being an inch too short to fly, she was unable to attend.

“As a joke, my boyfriend at the time gave my name to a Marine recruiter…they kept calling me and I said, ‘Okay, fine I’ll come and talk to you,’ and I absolutely fell in love…it was one of those love at first sight kind of moments,” said Zinni.

During her time as active duty, Zinni was stationed at Okinawa, Japan, Camp Pendleton and Dam Neck, Virginia, where she trained as an intelligence analysis.

“I’m what they call a lifer. I was attending an officer’s program and unfortunately I was not able to continue because I sustained severe knee injuries that became even worse when I deployed to Iraq,” she said.

When it was time for deployment, Zinni recalled the thrill she experienced while overseas: the exhilaration of contributing to something bigger than herself.

“I got to do my job a lot more than I did when I was in the rear (not deployed),” she said. “The thing that helped me was knowing that I was fighting for the things we take for granted, especially when I got back, seeing people burn flags and all that stuff, which didn’t sit very well in my stomach. I actually enjoyed deployments very much.”

Zinni deployed to Iraq twice and had been stationed at Camp Pendelton up until the time she was accepted into the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. Upon her acceptance, she went to USC before transferring to UCLA, and ultimately got medically separated from the Marines as a Staff Sergeant.

With only three years under her belt as a civilian again, Zinni said that transitioning has been immensely difficult.

Looking back on her military career, Zinni is proud of it all, but she is most proud of getting accepted into the commissioning program since it had been a dream of hers to become an officer.

Given that the Marines are known as being a boys’ club, Zinni said she had to earn respect as a woman during her time active because it was not just given.

“I was always seen as one of the guys,” said Zinni. “Having to go against what a lot of the mentality and persona was on females, especially working with the grunt unit, and being able to win that respect of my own…was a trial,” said Zinni.

By being a woman in a position of leadership, Zinni asserts that in order to empower other women, one must lead by example.

“Having them see the badass that you are and having that constant vibe around you, people feed off of that and it inspires them to do good and be a good leader.”