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.