CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan --
Cpl. Jessica A. Anstett, a radio maintainer with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan, was the epitome of a physically fit Marine who embodied the Marine Corps value of commitment, but her whole life came to a screeching halt when she got injured.
“I can’t live life without playing some kind of sport,” declared Anstett, her tight curly blonde hair framing her face as it stretched into a sheepish grin. “It’s what I grew up on, what I’m good at and why I didn’t get involved in petty things during school. It’s just what I’ve done since I was in kindergarten.”
Since she was less than four-feet tall, Anstett’s natural athleticism has allowed her to play any sport, despite her level of experience. She loved trying different sports, meeting new people and refining her skills. Her competitive nature fed off of the taste of success that winning provided. As she continued to excel in school, clubs and other sports teams, Anstett became a college’s ideal student athlete. As her senior year of high school came to an end, Anstett turned down a full ride to Mercyhurst University because she wanted more of a challenge.
“It sounds bad, but I was always given everything,” said Anstett, a Buffalo, New York, native. “The Marine Corps brought me into reality. I do everything on my own now. It started really rough but I got really [expletive] good at it.”
In August of 2015, Anstett enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, accepting the challenge to become one of the few, the proud. Her competitive spirit and dedication fueled her to journey through boot camp.
In September of 2016, Anstett was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The following year, she was selected as Marine of the Quarter for Headquarters and Support Battalion, her athletic background and dedication to her work set her miles apart from her peers.
“Sports taught her to be tenacious,” explained Debbie Anstett, her mother. “She wants to win all the time. The harder the challenge the better.”
In August of 2017, her whole world was pulled out from under her in an instant.
Teams lined the pitch aboard Camp Lester in Okinawa, Japan, as a Rugby tournament with the Camp Foster Sharks, Camp Kinser Samurai and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Wahiner raged on. A player on the opposing team was making her move up the side line with the ball tucked under her arm. Anstett made a bold tackle, but landed incorrectly. The play continued but Anstett stayed down. In a matter of seconds, Anstett had torn her anterior cruciate ligament for the second time.
“When you tear an ACL you hear an internal pop and that’s the key,” explained Anstett. “My sophomore year it was a lot more painful. It was similar, another sports related injury. Every time I would step it would collapse on itself and I would fall. It gets really sore all of the time. There is only one more ligament holding my leg together, which makes it really unsteady all the time.”
In December, Anstett will undergo surgery. It will be a complete bone reconstruction with a knee graft. Then they will have to go back in and redrill holes into her cartilage, and reconstruct a whole new ACL.
“Since I haven’t had surgery yet, I can still focus on stability, building those muscles before I can’t bend my leg at all,” said Anstett. “I wouldn’t say I am nervous or scared, but the first time I had, it was heartbreaking. Sports are such a big part of who I am, and watching all of my teammates play without me was miserable.”
With the unwavering support from her friends and family, there is no doubt in her mother’s mind that she will overcome the obstacles the surgery will present.
“I am so proud of her,” her mother said with a smile and sense of pride in her voice. “She does what she wants to do, she’s stubborn. She tries her hardest whether there are obstacles or not and that is what you need to do. Last time it didn’t hinder her, it just made her more cautious about her capabilities. She is strong and she’ll overcome this.”
Anstett continues to work out twice a day, building up her other muscles, while attempting to give her legs time to heal. With her surgery looming on the horizon, she plans to continue to work out, take college classes and volunteer.
“I am excited for the future,” Anstett said. “The people are my favorite part of the Marine Corps. You really have to depend on them sometimes, you need that support system. You need to understand that you can’t do everything on your own. Whether in sports or in the Marine Corps, people make you try harder, you don’t want to disappoint others. I won’t have my mom [to help me recover], but I know I have my friends.”