Sisterhood within brotherhood
When the senior drill instructor shouted for Recruit Carbajal, two voices screamed at the top of their lungs, “Yes, ma’am!”
It was not because they merely shared the same last name or were being belligerent, but because they were identical twins in the same platoon.
“It was nothing like I had ever experienced, and I was extremely out of my comfort zone,” said Cpl. Melinda L. Carbajal, a combat engineer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “As uncomfortable as I felt, I also felt very lucky to have my sister with me because having her there was like having a piece of home with me.”
The Carbajal twins grew up near Arlington, Va., and, like most twins, are extremely close. As they got older, they aspired to get out of Virginia and see the world.
“It took me a few weeks to convince my sister to join with me,” said Melinda. “As twins, we were so close and had done everything together our entire life. It just seemed right that we join together and experience everything the Marine Corps has to offer.”
Although joining the Marine Corps did not have an immediate impact on the twins ability to remain together, the dreaded thought of being separated soon became reality.
“I remember feeling sad and a little scared,” said Lance Cpl. Melissa L. Carbajal, a traffic management specialist with the distribution management office, G-4,
supply and logistics, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “When my sister got orders to Okinawa and I got orders to Beaufort, (South Carolina), I felt like I had to do everything I could to get to Okinawa. We had never been separated before, and it was going to be a difficult challenge for us.”
To say the separation was challenging would be a gross understatement. The twins found themselves in unfamiliar territory both literally and figuratively.
“I felt like a part of me was gone when we were separated,” said Melissa. “It was hard to adjust at first because I had to get used to being my own person. It helped that we were able to stay in contact, but it was still the hardest thing we’ve had to do.”
Modern technology helped the Marines stay in contact despite being thousands of miles apart. In the end, both sisters appreciated the opportunity to learn more about themselves.
“While we were apart, we did our best to stay in contact over the phone and internet,” said Melinda. “Being apart allowed us to gain a sense of individuality and showed us we can do things on our own. While we missed each other, the separation was beneficial in the end.”
Although the separation was difficult, it would end sooner than either anticipated, as Melissa’s hope to get stationed on Okinawa would eventually become a reality after spending close to a year in Beaufort. She was given orders to fulfill the rest of her commitment to the Marine Corps on Okinawa, where she would be reunited with her sister after their long separation.
“It was strange at first seeing her after so long – she seemed like a different person,” said Melissa. “It didn’t take us long to get back in sync with each other. It made me realize that no matter how much time we spend apart, she is more than my sister – she is my best friend.”
As Marines and ambassadors in another country, the Carbajal twins are expected to set the standard for professional and respectful behavior. They hope their brothers and sisters-in-arms can learn a little something from their close relationship.
“I have no problem telling her how it is,” said Melinda. “Sometimes, Marines are scared or nervous about correcting each other or telling them when they think
something is a bad idea. With Melissa and I, we don’t have that problem. Before we do anything, we check each other and make sure we have a solid plan.”
While it would be extremely difficult to tell the twins apart walking down the street, in the workplace, it is obvious who is who.
“Even though we are identical, our jobs are complete opposites,” said Melissa. “I have my own desk and spend most of my day in an office, while Melinda
spends most of her time in the field as a combat engineer.”
The twins are the youngest of five siblings and the first to earn the title Marine.
“They have been inseparable since high school when they were cheerleaders and the only two females on the varsity boys wresting team,” said Kathy Martinez, the twins’ eldest sister. “Now, they are closer than ever in the Marine Corps.”
While the twins are uncertain about the future of their Marine Corps careers, one thing that is for certain is the mark the Marine Corps has already left on
“The Marine Corps has brought us even closer together than before,” said Melissa.