Sonia Perez

Ready, Willing & Woman

When you think of the everyday heroes in today's society, who comes to mind? A: Military members, B: Police officers, C: Firefighters, D: Teachers, E: Coaches, F: All of the above. If you answered all of the above, you have described Sonia Perez, a true role model and treasure to society. For more than 20 years, Sonia has been a hero in many aspects of the word, and has done it all as a woman in several industries dominated primarily by men. 

Sonia joined the Marine Corps in 1988, and later switched to the Reserves after suffering a softball injury. She is now a Sergeant Major for a unit in New Jersey, where she reports once a month for training. "A lot of Marines have never seen a female First Sergeant, there's only a few of us out there. I have no problem with any of the males in my unit, so it's never been an issue," Sonia said. "I was very shy when I was younger and the Marine Corps forced me to open up and get out of my shyness, all while opening the door to a lot of great opportunities."

Throughout her 23-year career with the Marines, Sonia has had the chance to travel all over the world, as well as around the United States, for training. Her international travels have included Norway, Japan (Okinawa), and Puerto Rico. "My favorite place has been Norway. Even though it was cold and snowy, it was beautiful with all the lakes and mountains. It was also great because the Norwegian women get to train with the men, and in the US we typically train separately. I got to go into the caves in Norway where they have stored equipment from the Cold War, and I also saw the Northern Lights and moose."

In addition to her international posts with the military, she also finds excitement in the mountains and deserts of Nevada, where the unit practices night shoots and other military operations. As if all this isn't enough, she will be taking a Patuxent River Swim Class this month, where she will practice aerial breathing under water, and learn to find her way out from under water while blindfolded.

One endeavor Sonia has yet to embark upon is the chance to go to Iraq. She was supposed to go a while back, but was promoted to Sergeant Major a month before. When she transferred to her current unit, she missed deployment by about six months. "People tell me I shouldn't want to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, but as a female I do. Even though individuals over there put in hours and hours of work with no weekends off, constantly fixing planes, transporting marines and frequently in the line of fire. It is not an adventure."

Here in Beaufort County Sonia also makes a difference. She has served our community as a Deputy Sheriff from 1993-2000, a volunteer firefighter, receiving Volunteer of the Year in 2001, and is currently teaching Criminal Justice at the Beaufort Jasper Academy of Career Excellence. On top of that, you can find her on the court or field refereeing youth sports and coaching soccer and volleyball. "I couldn't have kids, so these kids [that I teach and coach] are like my own. They may not ever go into the criminal justice field, but it keeps them from getting into trouble. When I was younger, I got into trouble pretty frequently, until one day, I sat back and thought to myself, 'My grandma raised me better than this.' I took what I went through and made it into who I am today, and I can't imagine doing anything else."

Typical of the Marines' motto, Semper Fi, Sonia's life has already been more of an adventure than most. However, she is far from done! This determined lady is hoping to continue her career with the military for another eight years, when she will be eligible for retirement with 30 years of service. At that point, she plans to head out and do some travelling of her own. Her destination points of interests include the Holy Land, Rome and Hawaii, and perhaps also England, Ireland or Australia. In the meantime, she continues to play golf and soak in the life that she loves. "My motto to live by is 'enjoy life'. It's beautiful here in Beaufort and I try not to take anything for granted. I like being independent and having the chance to do the things I love."

Up Close:

Grew up in:
New York
Hobbies: Golfing, working out, reading, watching movies and riding motorcycles
Favorite Movie Genre: Scary. and romantic movies.
Showing her Softer Side: A few of her favorite movies include Casablanca, Steel Magnolias and On Golden Pond
Loves: Music, especially Salsa
Her "fur children": Maxi, a Labrador, and Grant, a mutt