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Marines teach woman responsibility

Submitted photo Courtney Delka, a former Marine, now works for Mom’s Meals in North Jackson. The Girard High School graduate lives in McDonald.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To suggest a veteran for this series, which runs weekly through Veterans Day, email Metro Editor Marly Reichert at

mreichert@tribtoday.com.

McDONALD — When Courtney Delka graduated from Girard High School in 2006, her future options were going to college or trying military service.

“I tried the college thing for about a semester at Youngstown State University,” Delka said “It wasn’t something I was interested in at the time.”

Delka said her cousin, who had enlisted a few months earlier, convinced her to talk to a Marine recruiter toward the end of 2006.

“On the spur of the moment I enlisted — on the spot,” she said.

Delka left for boot camp on Jan. 8, 2007, at Parris Island, S.C. She stayed there for 13 weeks, graduating in the spring.

She talked about some of the tougher parts of training.

“I was not a big fan of swimming, and I just passed the basic boot camp qualifications,” she said with a laugh, noting that combat Marines usually have to excel in water training.

Instead of being a “fighting” Marine, her enlistment placed Delka into a military police school in Missouri for a few months.

“While I was there, a support mission for the president’s travel party recruited me for their outfit,” she said. “There was a huge background check, and I had to obtain a security clearance.”

MARINE ONE

Delka made the grade to travel with the president, accompanying Marine One, being stationed out of Quantico, Va.

“We were the Marines who stood at the helicopter and saluted the president as he walked on and off. We were basically a support unit,” Delka said, noting it wasn’t a security detail — the Secret Service took care of that. Rather, her unit stayed with the helicopter.

Under two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, she got to travel on 12 support missions.

“We only got to see the president as he was coming and going from the helicopter,” Delka said, noting that she got to go on missions four times to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.

Delka said her missions also took her to Germany and London in 2008. She said there was time for some sightseeing; she checked out Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and London Bridge and the royal castles in England.

“It was a fairly busy unit, but mainly calm. There were not too many stressful situations to be concerned about,” Delka said, noting she did get to meet the chief executives, but wished in hindsight she would have taken more pictures.

“It would have been good to document those experiences. That was probably my biggest regret coming out of the Marine Corps,” she said.

After traveling with the presidential party for 2 1/2 years, Delka switched jobs and became a company clerk for a unit on the Marine base in Quantico.

“There was a lot of office and paperwork. I had to be responsible that every Marine was accounted for,” Delka said, noting that some of the skills she learned as a clerk transferred nicely to her jobs in civilian life when she was discharged in 2012.

BEST FRIENDS

Some of Delka’s best friends are still the Marines with whom she served.

“There are quite a few people that I still stay in contact with. There is no brotherhood like being a Marine,” she said, noting she is still friends with those in boot camp. “These were people that impacted many areas of my life.”

Delka also said she didn’t see many instances of being discriminated or harassed by male Marines. She noted while she was in the unit of 150 assigned to the president, the unit was about 25 percent female. “The women there were pretty close-knit and stuck together most of the time,” she said.

In the 10 years since leaving the service, Delka has built a family of three children, ages 9 through 13, that she now leads in a home in McDonald.

Delka said she was a special education teacher in Salt Lake City, Utah, before returning to the Mahoning Valley in June 2020. She now works as a line leader in food packaging for Mom’s Meals in North Jackson.

Her mother, JoMarie Nagle of Warren, said she has noticed a difference in her daughter accepting discipline since her military service. Nagle said growing up, Delka had difficulty being told what to do, especially from her mother.

“After watching her graduate from basic training,” Nagle said, “I became extremely proud and amazed at her for going through this. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do some of those training exercises, especially the swimming.”

Delka agrees with her mom.

“The Marines made me a lot more responsible. Coming out of high school, I was not very mature. It made me proud of myself, giving me an appreciation of who I was,” she said. “And the pride instilled in me never left. I still tear up when hearing the Marine Corps hymn. The pride of being a Marine never leaves you.”

Courtney Delka

AGE: 34

RESIDENCE: McDonald

SERVICE BRANCH: Marine Corps

MILITARY HONORS: Rose to rank of corporal E-4

OCCUPATION: line leader for Mom’s Meals in North Jackson

FAMILY: Single, three children ages 9-13

QUOTE: “I still tear up when hearing the Marine Corps hymn. The pride of being a Marine never leaves you.”

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