Latina Letters From the Front
By YN2 Jessica Contreras U.S. Coast Guard
I was born and raised in Brownsville, TX. Growing up, I had little to no knowledge of the Coast Guard. The Mexican-American culture I was surrounded with focused on the importance of family and being able to provide for them. With this in mind, I had one goal when I graduated high school; take in opportunities that would lead me with the promise of a career. In the summer of 2009, I attended the University of Texas at Brownsville. I pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and later in 2011, I pursued an Associate’s Degree in Forensic Science. With hard work, dedication, and a little help from a scholarship, I was able to graduate with both degrees in 2012. At the time, being a recent college graduate with no work experience, I found myself at a complete standstill. For almost a year, I applied to different jobs in hopes I could kick the door to another opportunity, with little to no success. This was the first time in my life I felt lost and had no purpose. I started seeking advice from friends, family, classmates, and professors. That’s when a former Forensics Professor of mine, also a highly decorated retired U.S. Army Officer, recommended joining the Coast Guard. Little did I know back then, this conversation would lead me to one of the best decisions I had ever made.
With the blessing of my family and husband, I joined the Coast Guard in 2014, and by June of that year, I was facing some of the greatest challenges of my life during boot camp. Having every waking moment on edge and hoping and praying you make it to the next day of training was the only thought in my mind. I relied heavily on the letters I received from my husband to get me through the next day. Before I knew it, I graduated and went to my first unit with my husband to San Diego, CA where the CGC Sherman was stationed. In retrospect, boot camp was such a short period of my life but had the most impact on how I view the world and how I carry myself in and out of the uniform. Three years later, I found myself needing to make a decision to stay in and choose my rate.
The CG had so much to offer me and trying to see what would fit my personality was the biggest factor. In the end, I decided to become a Yeoman and put my name on the A school list. This rate and branch of service has given me the privilege and the ability to help others and to serve my country, becoming the reason why I choose to reenlist and pursue a military career.
Ranking as a Petty Officer Second Class has allowed me to push through so many challenges. I joined different organizations to improve my leadership and to embrace diversity, such as the Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC) and Association of Naval Services Officers (ANSO). The rest of my time was devoted to volunteer work with educational institutions to help ensure they are receiving aid in mentoring/tutoring.
Putting my life in perspective, I have realized how my personality has led me to this amazing organization that welcomed me as a member of their family. I know the CG has more to offer, as this is not the end, only a beginning. I acquired self-knowledge and found my true purpose: helping others find their own passions in life. The confidence I have gained in my short seven years has allowed me to strive to be better. Knowing I can make a difference reminds me that I made the right choice in joining the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Foundation Dinner in Seattle, WA. September 19, 2019.
(L-R) SK2 Venetta Barber; YN2 Jessica Contreras; IT2 Felix Minos; YN1 Dusti Streibeck; YN1 Vinh Mai; ME1 Jeffrey Phillips.