The Corps experience is a multi-faceted one. There's the physical and the mental, but for Odonna Hastings, there's another, fairly unique aspect:
"The only thing that makes me tick sometimes is just seeing how proud I can make my mom and dad," Hastings said.
Hers is one of the more unique backgrounds in the Corps. Her father served in the army, and was stationed in South Korea, which is where he met his wife.
"My mom worked on base," Odonna said. "She was a barber and would always cut his hair. He'd always try to ask her out on a date, but it never happened.
"My mom's friend actually was dating another GI, who asked her to go on a blind date. By happenstance, it was my dad."
Odonna is one of four Hastings daughters, all of whom followed a pair of sons, both of whom went into the military. Hastings spent the majority of her youth in Washington State. When she began considering a military career, Texas A&M didn't immediately come to mind...until that family aspect came into play the first time.
"I was in JROTC, and I wanted to further that," Hastings said. Luckily, I had my brother. He's the assistant director of Corps recruiting here."
SGM Dennis Hastings's job is to show off the benefits of the Corps to prospective cadets, like his sister when she was in the Air Force JROTC back in Washington.
"I started sending her all the information about Texas A&M University, and she started getting all the enthusiastic phone calls," SGM Hastings said. "I painted the picture for her."
It was a picture Odonna couldn't resist.
"I know he would never steer me wrong," she said, "and if he spoke highly about something, it's because he put his heart into it."
In fact, Odonna has picked up the torch when in comes to recruiting. She frequently helps out with the "Spend the Night with the Corps" program, and works at booths that often pop up on campus to show people the benefits of Corps life, and that it's not too late for someone to join.
She also believes she serves as an example that the Corps isn't just for white males, as that perception is being broken down as the years go by.
"It's very important to let women and minorities know that it's OK to join something that wasn't always for them," Hastings said. "It's OK to make a change."
Two of the Hastings kids now calling Aggieland home, along with other family members being close by, were big reasons their parents now call Bryan home. They moved to the area just days after Odonna started at A&M.
But the trials and tribulations of a freshman's life in the Corps were made harder since family was so close, yet so far because of strict Fish rules. Hastings had to stay on campus for nearly the entire first year, with the rare visit from mother, father or brother as the only times she could see them.
"Ten minutes away is my family and people I can confide everything in," she recalls. "Right across the street was my brother, who I also couldn't see very often. It was just mentally struggling. I couldn't really cope with it at times."
But faith and determination carried Hastings through, made her stronger, and even strengthened her ties to a family she's now able to see much more.
"The hardest times are my best memories, and I wouldn't want to forget them," Hastings said. "Sometimes, you don't think you can get through something and you don't want to because of the struggle, the physical struggle, but really, it's just your anxiety, what you mentally make of it."
She also credits her fellow cadets with helping her get through any tumultuous times.
"I'm pretty sure any cadet would tell you that the most important people in the Corps to them are their buddies and those experiences," Hastings said.
"I would never have a reason to not wear this [uniform] with pride, because so many people have given me the opportunity to wear this," she said. "It's everything."
You can find out more about Odonna Hastings at the official Corps of Cadets website.
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