JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Cpl. Tahira Lawrence thought she was simply doing "my job" when she won Henderson Hall's Marine of the Quarter competition earlier this year.
When the 19-year-old Chicago native was meritoriously promoted to her current rank in a surprise promotion ceremony last month, she was shocked.
"I thought what I was doing, everybody was doing," said Lawrence, who serves as an administration clerk at the Adjutant's Office, Headquarters and Service Battalion on the Henderson Hall portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
Even more surprising was when she received a hand-written note signed by none other than the Corps' top leader, Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps.
Both Lawrence and fellow Marine Cpl. Arlene Cordova, the customer service noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the battalion's Consolidated Administration Office (CONAD), were promoted during a formal ceremony May 2. Both were presented personal letters signed by Amos congratulating them on their success and service and advising them to "wear these chevrons well, Marine."
"I had tears in my eyes," said Cordova, a Victorville, Calif., native. The 21-year-old, three-year Marine was recovering from a broken ankle when she took the physical fitness and combat fitness test as part of the quarterly board.
Cordova took second place at the board, while Lawrence took first place.
Promotions in the military are common, but in the Marine Corps, meritorious promotions are coveted achievements earned through competitive selection boards, top-notch performance and proven leadership potential, according to guidance listed in volume two of the Marine Corps Promotion Manual. Even rarer are meritorious promotions directly from a general officer: commanders and commanding generals cannot promote more than one percent of all lance corporals to the rank of corporal - the first noncommissioned officer rank in the Marine Corps - per Marine Corps Order P1400.32D. Further, the commandant of the Marine Corps may promote "...exceptionally well-qualified Marines in recognition of outstanding leadership and performance," according to the order.
In other words, only the best of the best are selected for such a promotion: Cordova's officer-in-charge, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael A. Barclay, characterized Cordova as having "professionalism...of a more senior and seasoned Marine. She quickly became my go-to Marine within her section and my CONAD as a whole."
Likewise, Lawrence's and Cordova's success is indicative of the service and support Henderson Hall provides to the some 2,000 Marines who work throughout the National Capital Region, according to Barclay.
"We pride ourselves on providing any support needed to all active duty, reserve or retired Marines and their families," said Barclay in an email.
For Cordova and Lawrence, the promotion is unique and memorable, not just because of the commandant's congratulatory letters, but also because both have a family history of military service: their Marines' fathers served in the Corps.