SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Sitting in a lawn chair in the middle of a grassy area of Salt Lake City, underneath a tree whose leaves have changed from green to gold, and are barely hanging on, Tisha Olsen shares her story.
“This is in memory of my father when he passed away. This is my bulldog. It says ‘born to raise hell, USMC.’ My father had the exact same thing on his arm,” Olsen said, proudly showing off her tattoos. “That one is Marines and Semper Fidelis. It means always faithful because we always will be.”
Olsen spent 22 years in the Marine Corps. The veteran always knew she was going to be a ‘devil dog.’
“I wanted to be a Marine since about the age of 12. My father was a Marine, his father, so on and so forth.”
“Being in the Marine Corps was an awesome experience! I loved every minute of it!”
It wasn’t always ‘such an awesome’ experience.
Olsen identifies as a woman, which is something she couldn’t do while a Marine. She served during the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ era.
“The more I kept having to hide myself, the more I kept having to live in my mask, I guess, the more angry, the more mean, the more vengeful I got,” she said.
“I requested any suicide mission there was. If I died a glorious death in battle, I will go to Valhalla. I will feast with my ancestors and my dirty little secret is safe.”
According to TransEquality.org, more than 134,000 American veterans are transgender, and over 15,000 trans people are serving in the military today.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration prohibited transgender troops in the military — a reversal of an Obama era rule.
“That’s their biggest thing, is, we need to have a strong, mighty military that are focused on their mission. Ok! This isn’t going to change that,” Olsen said, in regards to having transgender people in the military. “The job that I did, I’d like to see some of these people who are sitting in congress’ seats right now, try to do my job,” she added.
“Everybody has their opinion, but just remember, I was willing to give my life for you to have your opinion. I’m not saying you have to accept me. I’m not saying you have to agree with me. But why hate me? Why hate me when I was willing to give my life for you?”
Olsen, now a Certified Peer Support Specialist at Odyssey House, a treatment center in Salt Lake, says she shares her story of service and struggle to help spark a change.
“Hopefully with me saying something, I’m going to help that Marine that does want to wear heels fire a .50 caliber sniper rifle.”
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