MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N. C -- Many view sports as an outlet to relieve stress, some perceive it as an opportunity to make new friends, and others see as a way to challenge themselves and accomplish things that they dreamed of.
For Cpl. Sandra N. Jackson, an administrative clerk to the staff secretary, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) she has found this in her first love...basketball.
Since the age of seven, Jackson, a self-described jack-of-all-trades when it comes to sports has used basketball as her primary outlet to express herself.
“I have always loved basketball and it’s an unconditional love,” said the 5-10, power forward smiling. “It keeps me in shape and helps to diffuse a lot of anger and stress.”
Jackson began playing organized sports when she was 15 and has not slowed down since. When she arrived here in 2003, she was introduced to the idea of playing for the women’s All-Marine Basketball Team, but did not get a chance to try out until the summer of 2004.
She made the team after struggling through the difficult training camp and eventually made it on to the starting lineup.
“It was really cool when I made it to the starting five,” remembered the Pontiac, Mich., native. “I felt all the sweat and hard work during the training and games finally paid off.”
Since then, she has played in games with Camp Lejeune Women’s Varsity East team, made up of Marines from various elements of the surrounding Camp Lejeune area, in tournaments up and down the East Coast against other servicemembers and been to training camps on both coasts.
“At All-American Forces tournament in Port Hueneme, Calif., in September, we finally bat the Navy after five years and that was awesome,” 2000 Pontiac Northern High School graduate said excitedly. “To come out of that slump together was so great.”
Her love of the game has not only brought personal satisfaction and stress relief, but also new friendships along the way.
“I do not feel like there are a lot of events for females here and it’s good to meet others you can relate to with the same love of the game,” said the 23-year-old. “It’s a great way to help build camaraderie outside of our parent command.”
Even as basketball players this comes second to being a Marine as deployments, duty station changes and assignments often shake up the team’s roster for games and practices, but the bond they form keeps the core of them together.
“I remember the first time we beat Fort Lee this year. They a team we had been losing to all year and we finally eliminated them at our last tournament and we went to the finals,” Jackson remembered. “It feels good when we pulled together and defeat our competition like that. It’s shows there’s more than one way to fight the fight in the corps.”
Jackson and her teammates have played through injuries and look to each other for support whether it is on or off the court. She enjoys the challenges of the game, but truly appreciates her teammates and everything they do for each other.
“Sometimes on our spare time we play on intramural teams to keep our game tight,” Jackson remarked. “It doesn’t matter if we win or lose as long we are playing this game together everything will be alright.”
In the coming week Jackson and her team will be challenged as they prepare for another tournament that will take her to the nation's capital, but first they face the women’s basketball team of Fort Bragg, N.C., game that she is looking forward to.
“They beat us the last time out, but this time it will be different and we will big going back with another when for the record,” said Jackson confidently. “But when we go to the tournament we are definitely going to have to bring our ‘A’ game so we get can get that big ‘W’.”
As Jackson gets prepared for her next game, she looks back on her Marine Corps experience as a great stepping-stone for her future if she wants to pursue basketball as a career.
“I have always been told that I have the tools to make it to the next level, but I still see areas where I need to improve in,” Jackson said with a grin. “Until then, I will just play the best I can in support of my team and my Corps.”