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Lauren Kurkimilis, communication specialist, G-5, native of Cape Coral, Fla., was the first female born into her last name after 48 years of 19 boys. She has also been swimming since she was two years old. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo

What I've Learned: Lauren Kurkimilis

10 Dec 2014 | Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

I joined the Marine Corps in 2010 and I reached my end of active service last month.

I was 23 years old and working full time, going to school full time, trying to make ends meet.

My uncle and grandfather were Marines, so for me it was something that I sort of always wanted to do, even from the time I was in high school. I realized I was in a position where I was spinning my wheels and thought if I’m going to join, I need to do it now.

I was a combat correspondent.

I spent about eight months at the Defense Information School, then I got stationed in Twentynine Palms, [Calif.] and spent all of my enlistment here. I got the opportunity to do a lot of public speaking events and create some great media product.

Being in public affairs, I got to meet a multitude of people and I think that was the best part of my job.

I went to a center for the arts high school. Freshman year, I was a theater major. Growing up, I did a lot of singing and acting and only a little bit of dance. So I auditioned for the dance department my sophomore year and I was [accepted] and then my last three years I was a dance major.

The arts, in general, are a passion in my life.

I never thought I would fall in love with photography like I did, but it’s something that I’m going to keep with me no matter what. I can thank the Marine Corps for that.

I enjoy portraiture photography and I also enjoy taking scenic photos.

There have been profound moments in my life where I’d sit in a place and be in awe of what’s around me. To be able to take a camera and capture exactly how you see something in that moment is an asset.

I can tell someone how much I love the sunsets in southwest Florida, but to show them a picture of that is worth far more than a thousand words. If I can show it to you, you might just be as impacted as I was.

It’s all about perspective. The best photos are when you take it from a perspective that no one gets to see.

I like the sound when I swim. You can still vaguely hear what’s going on around you but for the most part I hear myself breathing and I hear the water around me, it’s very calming.

I would say the biggest passion in my life is my family. I have three brothers, one older and two younger.

My brother, Bryan, is a musician who has been featured in Time magazine and has had high-end designers request the rights to his music to be played at their fashion shows.

I have a 19-year-old brother named Patrick, he has autism and a photographic memory. I could tell him any date, for instance someone’s birthday, and in an instant he can tell you what day of the week it was. He is truly amazing. We have such a special bond.

Kieran is my eight-year-old brother and I would say he is the one who is probably the most like me. He reminds me that I shouldn’t be so serious in life and that I should enjoy the little things.

When my mom passed away, when I was a kid. And in the wake of that loss, I learned some of my most valuable life lessons. I learned the importance of grace through adversity and really understood what loss was.

I think as I grew older, I grew to be more and more like her. Or at least I tried to be. After she passed, I was told, ‘live your life as she would, and she will always be alive, in you.’ I really do believe that.

My dad was very much forced to be like my mother and my father all wrapped into one. He and I have a very close relationship because of that. He raised me like he did his sons, but still with a certain tenderness. He’s like my best friend.

Family is important to me and it’s hard being so detached. Sometimes I really need them. I’m lucky though to have my boyfriend with his family so close in Burbank, [Calif.] For the past three years I’ve been sort of taken in by them. Now they’re my family too.

The Marine Corps was an interesting journey. I learned to respect myself and to expect more for my life. I changed a lot while I was in and I figured out what was really important to me.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms