By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black, Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs
Dancing to the beat of an African drum and eating lamb kabobs, they have good reasons to celebrate. In a span of a week, husband and wife, both junior enlisted Sailors earned their degrees. Construction Electrician 2nd Class Marie Kiendrebeogo, assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command, earned her Masters of Public Health from National University on June 17. Her husband, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Roland Kiendrebeogo, assigned to Balboa Medical Center in San Diego, earned his Bachelors in Health Care Management from Southern Illinois University on June 12.
The Kiendrebeogos come from the West African country of Burkina Faso, but met before they joined the Navy while living in the United States. Marie has been in the Navy for three years, and recently advanced to petty officer second class.
“Lets say that education was not always a priority for me,” says Marie. “What most people don’t know about me is that I was already 20 years old when I graduated from high school. I always put soccer in front of school. As a young kid growing up, it was all about soccer, so I played soccer and neglected school. I kind of realized that is not how I wanted my life to be, when at 19 years old, I had my son. I believe education is something that no one can take from you, once you have learned something; it is in your head forever.”
She had to overcome many obstacles to reach this pinnacle in her life and says that it wasn’t an easy ride.
“When I was half way through my masters program, I was pregnant,” says Marie. “I just happened to go into premature labor. My babies [twins girls] were born three months early; we had to spend another 97 days in intensive care after their births. That was the struggle I had because I had to be there for my babies.”
Roland and Marie say that finding that balance was crucial in their success together.
“Our family never went out of balance as we recognized and accepted that sacrifices had to be made to accomplish our goals,” says Roland. “It was not easy by any means.”
Marie was able to push through the obstacles and says that being a role model helped her remain focused.
“I used it as a motivation, because if there is something I really want my kids to remember, it is that there is no excuse for not getting things done,” says Marie. “They are all motivations. I used that time not as an excuse, but as a motivation to keep going.”
Marie gained her U.S. citizenship while at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes in 2011.
Being from Burkina Faso, a French speaking country, Marie speaks several languages.
“I was always able to overcome my language barrier, mainly because I am very aware of it and I seek the help that I need to get where I want to be,” said Marie. “At National University, they have people there to help you with writing. For my graduate degree, I did a lot of writing, and they had people there to help you.”
She reflects on one of her most mentally challenging courses during the 22-month program. With the support she says she was still able to pull of an A in the class.
“One of the big problems I had was my [Biomedical Statistics] course,” says Marie. “It was a very difficult class for everybody. I was pregnant when I was taking this class too.”
After all the struggles Marie has been through, she hopes to be a role model for all.
“I want to use it as an example and as a motivation to empower other enlisted Sailors to do the same thing,” says Marie. “To be honest with you, it was a tough 20 months to get my master’s degree with all the things I’ve been through. I can tell you, that anybody can do it. You can use tuition assistance, you don’t have to touch your GI Bill, you can just do it one step at a time and eventually you will get there.”
Growing up in West Africa, Marie saw a lot of deaths due to preventable diseases. She says that if a disease can be prevented, no one should suffer from it. Marie would like to become a commissioned officer in the Navy’s medical corps.
“The ultimate goal is to become a health care administrator, and I really believe I have a lot to offer as far as what the medical service corps is into, which is global health,” said Marie. “I have a lot to offer, because of my diversity, because of all the things I’ve seen. I come from a place where people are just less fortunate, coming from a place where the health care system is rarely talked about. I have that background to have the opportunity to live in the United States and see how the health care system is developed. I can see both sides and hope to bring something meaningful to the table.”
Marie has earned two Bachelor’s degrees, one while in West Africa and the other after she earned a soccer scholarship to come to the United States in 2007. Her first degree was in marketing and management and her second one was in business administration.
“I majored in business because I always had that dream to open an orphanage in Africa,” said Marie. “I thought that if I study business, I would make enough money and have the necessary knowledge to start the orphanage and manage it. Again, I have always been driven towards doing something for the less fortunate.”
She believes that WARCOM has a unique and supportive culture for Sailors.
“The Navy helped me in all the possible ways you could ever imagine,” Marie says. “It’s not only the tuition assistance. It is one thing to be able to pay for school but it is another thing to have that support — to push you — and I have that in the military. My senior chief was always there and he supported me. My officers helped get everything I needed to get done. They gave me time to do my internship at Balboa Medical Center. That is one of the key things that I really like about the military. They take care of their people.”
Marie says she and her husband are so thankful for what the United States and the military have done to support her and her husband’s educational goals.
“I really want to give back to the military as an organization and be able to impact people as well because [everything] my husband and myself have been able to accomplish is because of being in the military,” says Marie. “We believe in life, you don’t just take, you give as well.”