- Service has always been something that has felt like the reason for me being here.
I've seen firsthand how policy changes can impact your life.
I was able to serve openly because of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
So my entire life and, like, ability to exist in this world, to be free, like, truly free, didn't just happen by chance.
I want to dedicate my life to the opportunity to leave the world better than you found it.
- Hi, I'm Shain Brenden.
As a veteran, I understand how objects we brought back from service can be so meaningful.
They can remind us why we served and what we did, or help us transition back to civilian life.
Today, I talk with a veteran whose object served as a reminder that change and progress are worth fighting for.
- My name is Janessa Goldbeck, and I served in the Marine Corps for almost seven years as a combat engineer officer and got out as a captain.
- So why the Marine Corps?
Was there any chance that there ever could have been a different branch?
- When I went into the recruiter's office, everyone else had sort of pitched me on what their branch could do for me.
And the Marine Corps recruiter said, you know, well, what can you bring to the Marine Corps?
Why should we take you?
And that definitely spoke to me.
There are not a whole lot of human rights advocates who then pivot and join the Marine Corps.
But I spent just about seven years in DC as a human rights advocate before that.
I saw it as two sides of the same coin.
Both were ways to protect people and make the world a safer place.
- How did your friends and your family react to the news of you saying, I'm going to go into the military.
I'm going to be a Marine.
- You know, I'd been out since I was 19, and I'd been living my life openly ever since.
And I definitely remember when I was signing my contracting paperwork related to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I felt conflicted.
I remember, like, pausing, because if I wanted to join the Marines, I had to effectively lie on that document.
The service is, like, based around integrity and character, but in order to serve, I had to, you know, commit this fraudulent act.
So that really stood out to me.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell was officially repealed, I was about three, four weeks into my training at Quantico.
For me to have the opportunity to serve openly, to feel that burden lift, you know, there's no amount of gratitude I could express that would be sufficient to those who came before me, who cleared that path.
Being able to just be myself in the Marine Corps allowed me to bring my entire self to the Marine Corps, and it allowed me to connect with my peers in a way that I might not otherwise.
- What was probably the most rewarding thing about your role, either during the deployments or just overall as a combat engineer officer?
- You know, one of the things that I didn't anticipate was how important mentoring young people was to the job.
As an officer, it's your job to know what's going on in the personal lives of your Marines and sailors and really get to know them and understand what it is that they want to do with their lives, what makes them tick, what challenges they've faced.
And so I didn't anticipate that getting to have those relationships and build those friendships, and honestly, like, family ties to people from all walks of life, many of whom grew up in extremely different circumstances than I did, that that would be the most rewarding part of my service.
- Talk to us a little bit about what are you doing post the military?
What's been going on?
- Yeah, well, so I got out of the Marines in August of 2019, and I realized when I got back from my last deployment that actually there was a really big sort of need for people who understood how the veterans community works and also could translate that into political power.
So I started my own consulting business that works with nonprofit organizations that want to pass federal legislation, that helps guide them through that process.
There's still a lot of work to be done.
- Your special object is your Don't Ask, Don't Tell contract.
- I have it hanging in my garage alongside a couple of other things that I've helped impact in the course of my life.
Two are pieces of federal legislation that were passed and signed into law that I advocated for and organized around.
The other is the Secretary of Defense's announcement that women could enter all jobs, including combat arms jobs.
Those are all on the wall as a reminder of what happens when you work to change something, and you work with people who share your same values and ideals.