“I’ve got Lopez!” One Marine shouted.
“Dibs on Little Lopez!” Another exclaimed.
It was time for the Marine’s customary fireman carry drill, where the soldiers had to hoist a partner onto their shoulders and transport them over a long distance.
Mercedes Lopez-Ponciano, now Mercedes Enriquez, was a 5-foot-nothing young woman, weighing maybe 110 pounds soaking wet.
Naturally, everyone wanted to pair with her.
The other Marines offered little consideration to whom she had to carry, but that wouldn’t stop her from doing it. She needed to prove a point.
“I had to,” Mercedes said when asked how she managed to haul these men twice her size.
“My motivation is like, I have to go because I need to get to the finish line. I have to get there. There are no ifs, buts, or coconuts about it.”
Infectious spirit and tenacity define Mercedes’ life and military service. It was the only way she knew to stand out as a woman in harsh circumstances.
When she was two years old, her family moved to the United States from Guatemala, where she grew up and attended Haltom High School.
Presented with the familiar post-graduation question of “What’s next?” Mercedes decided to join the Marines.
After a three-month boot camp and two years in the reserves, she was deployed to Al-Fallujah in 2005 to serve on detainee ops.
Her responsibility was to act as a prison guard, serving as a buffer between female prisoners and male officers. Zero female prisoners came through, however, so she assumed the role of a male guard.
It forced her to alter both her demeanor and appearance.
“They would look at me like, whatever, why are you talking to me?” She said. “I just had to become stronger and become one of the guys. I cut my hair really short and just decided that I was going to be like one of them.”
Her deployment in Al-Fallujah was overwhelmingly positive but wasn’t without angst.
Mercedes tells the story of a prisoner transport she was on. They were moving detainees from their Al-Fallujah prison to one in Ramadi.
Her curiosity got the best of her, so she volunteered to go on the excursion. She wanted to see another prison.
Their convoy had to travel through a 30-mile hot zone to reach Ramadi. Mercedes understood the potential dangers but claimed it didn’t do much to calm the nerves.
“I was concerned. I was like, what if there was an IED on the road? Are we going to start taking some rounds?” She admitted. “My weapon was loaded. We were on ready the whole time. That was intense.”
Thankfully, nothing came of it and Mercedes returned home safely in 2006, where she served until leaving the Marines in 2010.
She is now a proud mother to her three children, Jazmine, Leonardo, and Rafael, and wife of 18 years to her husband Fernando. They married just weeks before she deployed.
Her professional life blossomed in 2019 when Insureberry hired her as an Account Manager. In less than two years, they promoted her to branch manager of the Fort Worth office.
Rapidly rising the ranks is nothing new for Mercedes. She did the same during her time in the service, quickly becoming a sergeant and leading a division of Marines in her platoon.
She earns the respect of everyone in the room she is in. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t sing her praises and much of that is connected to her military experience.
“It served me for the rest of my life,” Mercedes said. “It made me stronger.”