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Trading farm life for military service

By MIKE LABELLA | The Eagle-Tribune | Published: August 13, 2017

HAVERHILL, Mass. (Tribune News Service) -- Growing up on a farm gave her physical strength, while pride in her country gave her the courage and desire to join the military.

For 18-year-old Elizabeth Stasinos, enlisting in the United States Marine Corps is something she's been planning for several years.

"My dad always wanted to feed the country, and I always knew I wanted to protect it," she said.

A recent graduate of Essex Agricultural and Technical High School, where she majored in dog breeding, training and showing, Elizabeth Stasinos signed up for delayed entry into the Marines last year and plans to ship out to Parris Island for Marine boot camp on Aug. 21.

She said she's excited about leaving, but that her friends and family aren't exactly thrilled about it.

"I don't want her to go," her aunt Margaret Photiou exclaimed while helping her niece load freshly picked vegetables into wooden bins at Chris' Farm Stand on Salem Street in Bradford.

"Well, I'm going," Elizabeth responded with a smile.

Elizabeth's parents, Marlene and Chris Stasinos, and Elizabeth's brother Andrew, 22, run the stand and raise their crops along with turkeys for Thanksgiving on the 139-acre Silsby Farm.

"I grew up on the farm and for as far back as I can remember I've been helping to run the stand," Elizabeth said.

"At first I helped by stacking vegetables on our tables and also I'd gather eggs from our chicken coop," she said. "Whatever money I earned I spent on ice cream at Carter's (Carter's Ice Cream), which is just down the street."

She eventually graduated to heavier work, including hauling 60-pound bags of corn from the cooler and loading the corn into bins.

"I also bred rabbits to sell and to show at the Topsfield Fair," she said, noting she amassed a collection of 4-H ribbons.

Along the way she helped raise and train the family's dogs, and most recently a German shepherd named Kona, who is just one and a half years old.

"I can get her to sit on chairs and open doors," Elizabeth said.

Attending Essex Aggie was a family tradition, and in part so is serving in the military.
"My grandfather was in the Coast Guard and my cousin is in the Air Force," she said. "Joining the military just clicked with me."

Elizabeth had a good idea of what she wanted to do in the Marines when she signed up for delayed entry last fall.

"I want to be an MP (Military Police) and if I'm lucky I'll get into K-9 handling school," she said, explaining that one hoped-for option would be to work at a guard shack with a trained dog to check vehicles for drugs and bombs, before those vehicles are allowed onto a military base.

"My friends are scared that I'm going to die, and so is my mom," Elizabeth said. "I think everyone is worried about the unknown."

She said she's already had some exposure to the military, having attended a friend's Marine graduation ceremony, where she met her boyfriend, who is in his second year with the Marines.

"I also have a friend in the Navy, two in the Army and one in the Marines," Elizabeth said.

Marlene Stasinos said she can't help but worry for her daughter's safety, but recognizes how badly her daughter wants to serve in the military.

"I am scared because of the state the world is in, but also proud that she wants to be there for her country, rather than just feed its people," Marlene Stasinos said.

At boot camp, Elizabeth will be part of an all-female unit.

"Where we sleep and eat is a distance from where the guys will be, so as to prevent any potential problems," she said. "I chose the Marines because they are the hardest, proudest and most challenging branch of the military. They serve on the land, in the air and on the sea."

Elizabeth said she was able to arrange her schedule so that she'll be home for the latter part of November, then will ship out for specialized training in December.

"I don't want to miss Thanksgiving," she said.

(c) 2017 The Eagle-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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