It was a bright, sunny day in Jacksonville, and Emily Topolski, a mother of two, gave one last hug to her children before leaving for the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia.

From January 2007 to October 2011, Topolski served on active duty in the Marine Corps as an enlisted Marine. After getting out, she worked at the commissary on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“The customers were not only civilians, but Marines too,” said Topolski, a second lieutenant with 2nd Marine Logistics Group currently conducting on-the-job training. “I was constantly being reminded of the organization I was part of. The sister and brotherhood, the family and unity of the Marine Corps. I missed that.”

One day, a friend of Topolski’s asked her if she had thought about joining the Marine Corps again. She replied with a no, but she then looked more into it, and sure enough, she was able to join.

On June 2, 2018, Topolski was introduced to the training she would go through for the next 10 weeks. OCS is a training regimen designed to screen and evaluate potential Marine Corps officers. Those who successfully complete the period of instruction are given the opportunity to be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

“OCS was all mental,” Topolski said. “Knowing that all they do is challenge and test you to see how much you can take without breaking.”

According to Topolski, her children would send pictures and letters while in OCS. There was one letter she had opened and glitter fell onto the floor. It was an emotional time and also motivating for her.

“My family and friends were all super supportive,” Topolski said. “It was good, they didn’t forget about me.”

Topolski graduated OCS in August of 2018, and on the same day, she continued to The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico. TBS is where all newly commissioned and appointed officers are taught the basics of being an “officer of Marines.” She graduated TBS March 6, 2019.

“It meant a lot to be able to put this uniform back on,” Topolski said. “It didn’t matter the rank it carried, as long as I was able to put it back on.”

Topolski met her new command and is currently at her unit, but at the end of June, she will be going to her Military Occupational Specialty school as a logistics officer for more training and will graduate in September. Until then she will be doing what is right for her Marines so they can later pass it on, she said. Topolski reflected the motto given at OCS: “Ductus Exemplo” meaning “Leadership by Example.”

“To me, the greatest gift is to be able to impact my Marines’ lives,” Topolski said. “Outside of my own children, knowing I can make a difference in one’s life means so much.”