ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Growing up in the bright lights of Los Angeles, U.S. Army Cpl. Mary Velis wasn't interested in becoming a movie star; her childhood dream was to serve her country.

"As a little girl I wanted to pursue a career in the military. My brother served in the Navy and I really looked up to him. He was a role model and I admired his uniform pictures and would be amazed at the stories he shared," Velis said. I wanted to make my own memories and now, I have my own memories to share and make my family proud."

She joined the Delayed Entry Program - also referred to as the Delayed Enlistment Program or Future Soldiers Program in the Army. The program requires individuals going into active duty in the United States Armed Forces to enlist first in the DEP before they ship out to basic training or boot camp.

Just a few years after joining the Army, Velis said she learned a valuable lesson, one that became her guiding force for years to come.

"I found myself in an environment where I felt I had to prove myself. I constantly tried to push myself to be physically and mentally ready for anything thrown my way. I learned to be resilient."

The Medical Logistics Specialist leaned on that resiliency after she suffered a broken ankle and torn ligament this past spring. While having to leave her unit to recover was difficult and upsetting, Velis found a way to focus on returning to duty as she healed at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McCord, Washington.

Velis pushed herself to participate in the 2019 Pacific Regional Adaptive Reconditioning Camp at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Velis says the opportunity to participate at the camp provided a new goal for her to accomplish.

"I consider myself an athlete and being challenged with a new sport, like archery, gives me the drive and focus to be better. Every week, I look forward to Wednesday (and try to be) better than last week," Velis said. "My first goal was to be able to pull the bow at 30 pounds (draw weight) and now I can draw it at 55 pounds. I challenged myself to get stronger so I can hang with my peers."

Velis has also bench pressed 105 pounds, a personal record which she says was a pleasant surprise, and credits her success to those at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McCord who helped in her recovery.

"I couldn't have done it without the help of the staff and, most importantly, a best friend I met here at the WTB. He always took me to the gym and pushed me to be better. His belief in me drove me to be the best I can be at the camp."

Despite suffering a minor medical setback at the camp, Velis is on track to return to duty in March of 2020. She says her experience at the camp provided her with a valuable lesson that goes beyond sport.

"Entering the WTB made me aware that things happen for a reason. I am a firm believer that this was a blessing in disguise and led me to try for something like Army Trials and the Department of Defense Warrior Games. I know I can do anything I put my mind to."