Theresa Larson went from being a professional softball player and fitness competition winner, to becoming Marine Lieutenant and platoon leader while deployed in Iraq. For Larson, her biggest battle was not fought overseas, it was an internal and painful struggle with bulimia. She is now a physical therapist for other “wounded warriors.” Risen interviewed Larson in 2016 and talked to her about what it was like being a female lieutenant in the Marines and how her parents helped shape her faith.
Larson opens up about what it was like being a female lieutenant in the Marines.
“I was an officer and I really enjoyed my position. I was able to work with a platoon of guys, and a couple of ladies, and really get my hands dirty. I ran a platoon of 54 Marines, and then in Iraq, I had more than 115 [personnel] on certain missions. As a leader, I really had the ability to make an impact on these people’s lives. As a woman, day one going into a platoon, our Marines look at you like, ‘You are a woman, what can you do?’ Versus, ‘Oh cool, I got a new Lieutenant.’ They don’t respect you from the start. I really had to prove myself to them in the first couple of months. Women only make up seven percent of the Marine Corps. I got along pretty well with most of my Marines and they respected me. But as a woman, you are judged just a little bit harsher. There are more eyes on you. If you mess up it is going to affect the reputation of all the women who come after you.”
“Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.” 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Larson shares how her parents helped shape her faith.
“My dad becoming a priest was pretty cool. I was really supportive of him. My mom was a nun before he met her and then when he met her she was leaving the nunnery and of course she couldn’t go back, because she married him and now I am here! I grew up Catholic and the fact that he became a Catholic priest didn’t surprise me, it actually helped improve my faith. Going to church reminded me of my dad. Even though he was a priest in Pennsylvania, anywhere I went to church it would remind me of him. Just taking that one hour a week to serve God, worship God was the least I could do to show thanks and gratitude. My dad taught me the act of praying, the act of contemplative thought. I did pray, but my prayers were not super focused, contemplative thought didn’t really happen for me until recently. When I was in Iraq deciding to come home, I really had to sit down and say, ‘Theresa what do you want? You can only get through this with God’s help.’ Because of my faith, I was determined not to let myself go down the rabbit hole of taking my own life. I knew it would hurt everyone around me and be a selfish act. My mom was a completely faith-filled woman and before she passed she would say, ‘Theresa life is so unfair. God didn’t do this to me, this is just life. You have to go on with your life. If anything bad happens – because bad things will happen – you’ve got to move on and live your life.’ That’s why when I was at my rock bottom leaving Iraq, I was determined to figure it out.”
Pray for our military. Pray that God would protect them as they serve our country. Pray for the military chaplains and those that are believers that God would use them to reach other military members for Christ. Ask God to give the leaders wisdom and guidance as they make decisions. If you know a military member personally, ask them how you can pray for them and their family. If they are deployed, commit to praying for them daily. Several churches have military ministries that they partner with that you can get specific prayer requests.
Serve our military and their families. If your church or another local church has a military ministry, ask them how you can serve. It is often easier to work with an existing organization rather than do something on your own. There are several military ministries and organizations that are set up so you can create a care package for a military member and they will send it. Ask your small group members or friends to collect items for care packages and write letters of thanksgiving and encouragement to military members. They might even have opportunities or events where you and your family or friends can volunteer.
Don’t quit. Even if others are criticizing you or don’t respect you, don’t give up. Ask God to give you the encouragement and perspective you need to persevere. It might be helpful to sit down with a friend, small group leader or pastor and share the situation with them. They might be able to offer wisdom or other solutions you might not have thought about. Think back on other situations that were difficult and how God helped you to get through them.
To read our entire interview with Theresa Larson, click here.