Starting Aug. 2, Amanda Schlussel begins basic training to become a Marine.
Amanda Schlussel grew up in West Bloomfield, early on watching three older brothers and two cousins shooting baskets and playing catch. Her home, on occasion, seemed a bit of a sports center for the five, and she soon joined in.
Schlussel enjoyed watching her stepbrother play hockey at the Jewish Community Center, and at 7 years old, she started playing roller hockey at the JCC. Two years later, she moved into ice hockey and continued with afterschool play while attending Doherty Elementary School and Orchard Lake Middle School.
“I always did my work for classes at Frankel Jewish Academy, but I was most happy when I was playing hockey and doing workouts to be in condition for hockey,” she said.
Schlussel, a graduating senior, had planned for college, where she could keep up with her favorite sport, but COVID-19 interfered. The pandemic shut down practice and games, and Schlussel decided she just would not be ready for college competition.
Instead, she made up her mind that the best way to stick with intensive physical activity was to join the U.S. Armed Forces. Starting Aug. 2, Schlussel begins basic training to become a Marine.
“My friend is currently serving, and she brought up the idea to me,” Schlussel explained. “I picked the Marines because it’s the hardest branch. I just find a lot more pride in being able to say I’m a Marine.
“I’m super open about how it’s going to be. If I like the Marines, I’m going to continue and make a career out of it. If I don’t like it, I’ll get out and do something else.”
Shana Kantor, Frankel director of advancement, said that Schlussel has made a choice that’s unique for the school’s graduating students although some have gone into the Israeli military.
“We’re proud of different choices made by our students,” Kantor said. “We try to help them take the next right step for each of them.”
A grandfather is the only family member that Schlussel understands had any military background, but he was part of an educational program that had to do with academics rather than grueling mission preparation.
Although Schlussel gave a year’s thought to enlisting, she did not tell her family until her decision became firm.
“My parents were shocked because they know of no kids who have gone into the military except for that one friend,” Schlussel said. “They knew I had planned on going to college, but they ultimately became supportive because they know how happy I am with my choice.”
Schlussel has signed up for four years in active service and four years in the reserves.
‘A Tough Cookie’
“As Amanda’s mom, I could not be more proud that she has figured out what she wants to do,” Michelle Baskin said. “If she were going off to college, I would be nervous, but this ups that feeling a little. I was surprised at first, but she’s always been a tough cookie.”
Schlussel’s pre-military schedule has included a trip to Florida with her mom and outdoor experiences, hiking and water rafting, in Colorado and Montana with her dad, Steve Schlussel. She will be a waterskiing specialist at Camp Tamarack for one session.
Travel has been a special interest for Schlussel, who decided against a large bat mitzvah at Temple Israel in favor of a home celebration so that party money could be used instead for visits to new places.
“I’m focused on working out and getting physically and mentally ready for the Marines,” Schlussel said. “I run more than two miles at a time and do pushups and sit-ups. I’m excited to have something completely new to do in a new community.”
While Schlussel advances the workouts introduced by her brothers, she will think of them choosing more bookwork. One is employed by a mortgage firm after completing Michigan State University. Another attends the same school, undecided about a career, and yet another is enrolled at Wayne State University, also undecided.
“I’ll miss my close friends and family, but I’m sure this is right for me now,” Schlussel said. “It’s also nice to be doing something for my country.”