In less than a year, Rosalind Sanders will strap on a Kevlar helmet in the U.S. Marine Corps where a tiara once stood for Miss Lewis County of 2010.
Playing a fiddle on stage in a talent competition is in the past for this 19-year-old — Sanders could be knocking down targets with an M16 rifle this summer in Parris Island, S.C.
“I knew I was going to be a Marine, I just didn’t know when,” Sanders told The Chronicle.
Sanders enlisted in the Marines in mid-March. That same month, she passed the Miss Lewis County crown to 17-year-old Kara Morris, of Onalaska, who is now Miss Lewis County 2011.
Ever since she was a kid, Sanders wanted to be Miss Lewis County. That experience, she says, taught her to be comfortable while speaking before the public and overall, made her a better person.
“I went from being in the public spotlight to not,” the W.F. West High School graduate said.
Growing up in a family where everyone served in the military — her mother Susan Sanders served in the Navy — Sanders said she had always leaned toward eventual military service. But it wasn’t until her father, Alan Sanders, died last December that joining the Marines had crystallized for her.
“From that day forward I just knew I couldn’t let anything go,” she said.
Since joining, the Marines gave Sanders about three months to get in shape before beginning basic training. She had had trouble passing two parts of her physical fitness requirements — 44 crunches in less than two minutes and keeping her chin pulled up to a pull-up bar for at least 16 seconds.
Sanders should be on Parris Island no later than Oct. 11.
As someone who was 9 years old when nearly 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Sanders doesn’t think the recent killing of Osama bin Laden will end the war on terror.
“I think there’s more to it than him being gone, but it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.
After basic training, Sanders plans to train in either intelligence or air traffic control. She plans to make a career in the Marines and also get her master’s degree in business administration.
Sanders, a full-time nanny and part-time waitress at Applebee’s, is also a part-time student at Centralia College.
At Applebee’s, where Sanders is also known as “Ros,” a couple of coworkers have joked that she’s their “beauty queen to Marine.”
“We’re going to miss her when she’s gone,” said assistant manager Miriam Rosenberg.
While sipping beverages with Sanders at Starbucks on Harrison Avenue, her friend Marissa Gleason said that she is also “a little sad” that Sanders is leaving Lewis County for the Marines.
“She’ll be all macho and manly now,” Gleason said.