By Clara Lincicome
On your way to class through the McLennan Community College campus, you might run into Morgan Wishart, a 22-year-old human development and family studies major from Mineola. Her zip-up jacket boasts the words MCC Dance Company, and she presents herself with a bright smile and excitement for a challenge.
Off the bat, you might assume she is a member of the dance company, a student at MCC, and that she came to MCC directly out of high school. What you likely will not imagine upon first glance is that Wishart spent the past four years as a corporal in the Marine Corps before arriving at McLennan Community College.
Wishart grew up in an Army family — parents, uncles, and both sets of grandparents. But after talking to an Army recruiter, she said she did not get the “homey” feeling she was hoping for. Then, Marine Corps recruiters visited her school in September 2017.
“You know how they come to high schools and you do the pull-ups and everything?” Wishart said. “Well, I did that, and I got their number from there. … I signed the papers that day.”
Wishart graduated from Lindale High School in June 2018 and left for boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina one month later. She described boot camp as nerve-wracking, especially since she was one of few females. The process of getting there was a blur for Wishart, she didn’t know where she was flown into and was without a phone or any form of communication.
“You get off the plane, then they put you on this bus. They’re just screaming at us, and we’re putting our heads down for the whole ride to Parris Island. I don’t know how long it was,” Wishart said. “It was dark, and my legs were shaking, I’m flustered just thinking about it.”
Upon arrival at Parris Island, Wishart recalled seeing the infamous yellow steps in person for the first time.
“That is your ‘entering into learning how to be a Marine,’” she said. “And there are literal yellow footsteps on the ground, every Marine has stepped on those footsteps. It was like, ‘I’m really here.’”
Wishart emphasized that the purpose of the three-month boot camp was to “break you down from individuality and build you up as a Marine.” When calling her parents for two minutes to let them know she arrived at Parris Island, she read a script, and could not use the words “I,” “me,” or “love you.” “There is no ‘I’ or ‘me’ in boot camp. No one cares about you,” she said.
The culmination of boot camp and the last step in becoming a Marine is the Crucible, notoriously the hardest three days of the three months spent at Parris Island, Wishart said. She got four to six hours of sleep total as they completed obstacle courses that simulated war, with the goal of completion without losing gear or a teammate. After completing the Crucible, recruits receive their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, the emblem of the Marine Corps.
After boot camp, Wishart went to San Diego for Marine Combat Training.
“You’re just shooting guns, out in the field for weeks,” Wishart said. “You only get one porta-potty, and you’re sharing it with your company, like 300 people. No showers, lovely baby wipes, and sleeping under the stars. It was not the time of my life.”
From there, Wishart was sent to Jacksonville, N.C., for a short time before being stationed at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., where she worked and attended Pensacola State College.
“They just put you wherever they want you,” she said. “You’ll hear it forever in the Marine Corps, where they need you is where they’ll put you.”
Wishart worked in supply and was in charge of a $4 million account managing the station’s money and tracking where it went, making sure students had everything they needed to complete their training.
Marines have a four-year contract, starting the day before departure for boot camp, followed by a four-year reserve. Wishart’s contract was up on July 15. She decided to fulfill her goal of becoming a member of the MCC Dance Company.
“MCC has always been a dream of mine,” she said. “My sister went here from 2017-19, and I got a glimpse that this was what I wanted. Ten-time national champions? I want to be a part of that!”
Dancing since she was 12 years old, Wishart grew up attending MCC workshops and competitions. She spoke highly of director Ashlee Keyes, as well as the alumni base of the dance company.
“So many alumni come back and talk to us, and I love that,” Wishart said. “I love to have people that have been in my shoes give me advice on how they became national champions.”
Being part of the Marine Corps has impacted every aspect of Wishart’s life, including her role as a teammate on the MCC Dance Company.
“My formative years, 17-21, I was in the Marine Corps. It’s crazy how different you become,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine myself without the Marine Corps and what I was taught. Everything I think about is from my Marine Corps standpoint. It’s all I know.”
Wishart regards Veteran’s Day as an opportunity to honor and remember those who paid the price for us to live in the United States.
“My whole family was in the military, and they have friends that aren’t with us today,” she said. “My Marine Corps brothers and sisters, my family’s Army brothers and sisters all went out there and fought for us to live this life that we have. It has always been the same for me, respecting our veterans that are here and aren’t here with us today.”
Clara Lincicome is a senior journalism major on the PR track at Baylor University from Washington state. Her minors are corporate communication and leadership studies. She is a PR intern for the Department of Marketing and Communication at McLennan Community College and a tour guide for Baylor University.
By Robert J. Rush, Sr.
My brother, Frank, recently sent me a link to an article about a history making event at the navy. The article is entitled “A Military 1st: A Supercarrier Is Named After An African American Sailor.” He correctly thought I would particularly be interested as a retired sailor. He was more than correct.
The article goes on to explain that the event was particularly amazing because super carriers are normally named after U. S. presidents, not enlisted sailors, and especially not enlisted ‘Black’ sailors. Well, you should be proud to know that according to the article, a supercarrier now on the drawing boards will be christened the USS Doris Miller, after our own Doris Miller from Waco, Texas. That is an awesome honor.
After reading the article, I thanked Frank and decided to expound on the story some, providing a brief historical update on Blacks in the navy since the days of the heroic actions of Doris Miller. I would like to share that with you.
As covered in the article, the heroic actions of Doris Miller in the heat of battle demonstrated to many that Blacks could do more in service to our country that just be messmen or stewards, who took care of naval officers by laying out their clothes, shining their shoes and serving their meals. That’s almost all we were allowed to do at the time in 1941. Even touching the guns and firing them as Doris Miller did was against the regulations at that time. However, his actions caused many senior military and non-military leaders to rethink how Blacks were being used in the navy. The impact of what he had done started the navy to training Black sailors for other rates/jobs such as gunner’s mate, radioman and radar operator. It even started them to think about the idea of having a Black naval officer.
Projecting the story a little forward in history, the navy decided to give the idea of making Black officers a try. First the navy experimented in 1944 by selecting 16 enlisted Blacks to be secluded and trained to become naval officers. This ultimately led to the “Golden 13,” the first group of Black naval officers (12 commissioned officers and 1 Warrant Officer). Seems the navy just arbitrarily chose 13 of the 16 though all of them excelled and passed all of the tests. One claim was that by doing so, it kept the commissioning percentage in line with the other commissioning sources.
Later, in 1945, the esteemed Naval Academy admitted six Blacks into its halls as midshipmen, including Wesley Brown. The five men who came before Brown as Midshipmen were chased out of the academy altogether. (No reason was given in the source articles). So, Brown was the first to make it to graduation/commissioning in 1949. From there he forged a successful 25-year naval career, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander (O-4).
Fast forward again and the navy tried another experiment. They experimented with commissioning Black officers into the navy through a traditional Historically Black College or University (HBCU). They tried this in 1968, choosing Prairie View A&M as that HBCU, out of three HBCUs that were being considered. That’s how PV got it’s NROTC unit, of which I (from Waco, TX) became an original member in 1968, my freshman year there.
To complete the unit, in addition to our freshman class, they allowed some upper-class army ROTC students to switch over to the NROTC. The first class of the PV NROTC graduated and received their commission in 1970. There were 13 of them. They chose to revive the moniker, the Golden 13. That class set records for performance during their time in service, yielding 6 or 7 O-6 and above officers (i.e., naval Captains and Admirals) out of that class. This was and remains today to be an unprecedented percentage for the whole navy’s commissioning sources, including the Naval Academy.
My class graduated in 1972 as the first, full 4-year class from the historic unit. After 20 years of active service, I retired in 1992 as a Lieutenant Commander (O-4). We all celebrated the unit’s history back in 2018 at the 50th Anniversary ceremony of the PV NROTC unit. Johnitha and Rashaad supported me by attending the event with me. They got the opportunity to see and hear about the proud history of our unit. They also got to meet my best friend from my active days in the navy, CWO4 Dean Johnson, who has since gone to be with our Lord and Maker. As an aside, some others of you may remember meeting Dean. He and his wife Karen came to Waco to support me at Mary’s funeral.
How about that for fitting the Doris Miller story into an even larger story with even more personal and Waco relevance? Coincidental to us, especially considering I never planned to have anything to do with the military. Not coincidental to God, who has blessed me all along the way and continues to do so each and every day.
This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of The Anchor News. The Anchor News is a free, monthly publication of Crawford Publishing. The Anchor News is dedicated to serving the community and surrounding area, focusing on positive news and accomplishments of minorities. For more information about The Anchor News including how to subscribe or where to pick up a copy, please visit The Anchor News website.