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Oyster Bay teen trading prom gown for Marine Corps fatigues

Oyster Bay High School senior Destiny Martinez, 17,

Oyster Bay High School senior Destiny Martinez, 17, said her boyfriend, Kyle Whitelaw, a 2013 Oyster Bay graduate, couldn't attend her prom on Thursday, June 26, 2014, because he's in the Army, but she said he was her inspiration to enlist in the Marine Corps after graduation. Credit: Tara Conry

Oyster Bay High School senior Destiny Martinez arrived at her prom Thursday night at The Water’s Edge in Long Island City without her boyfriend.

She said her beau, Kyle Whitelaw, a 2013 Oyster Bay High School graduate, is a soldier in the U.S. Army currently stationed upstate at Fort Drum, and he wasn’t able to take leave.

“He can’t even make it to my graduation,” she said. “It stinks, but he’ll be here from July 2 to July 16.”

For the past year-and-a-half, the couple has been making the long-distance relationship work, and in a few weeks, Martinez said she too will be living the military life. She has enlisted in the Marine Corps.

“He was my inspiration,” said Martinez, 17, who started researching different branches of the military shortly after Whitelaw left for boot camp last July.

She said her heart led her to the Marines.

“In every branch, there are females, but the Marine Corps has the fewest, so to be able to say ‘I am the few of the few, I made it,’ would feel great,” she added.

Since August, Martinez said she has been training three days a week at the Marine Corps Recruiting Center in Hicksville. She even gave up playing sports during her senior year to focus on preparing for boot camp. She leaves for Parris Island, South Carolina, on Aug. 25, and is the only member of Oyster Bay’s Class of 2014 heading off to the military after graduation, according to a school official.

“I’ve been counting down the days to graduation and till I leave,” she added.

With the 15 college credits she acquired through advanced placement courses at Oyster Bay, Martinez said she’ll be entering as a private first class, and already has a position lined up in intelligence after she finishes basic training.

Originally, she said she wanted to do infantry, but a recruiter steered her toward intelligence, explaining to her that those skills could help her land a job outside of the military if she decides not to re-enlist.

Martinez said her father wanted her to go to college and get a job, perhaps as a lawyer or a teacher. She said she hasn’t ruled out school, but at least for now, it’s on hold.

“There’s always school, it’s always going to be there, but there is a certain cutoff date to become a Marine,” she said. “You can always go back to school, but this is a title you only get to claim once.”

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