Standard Marine Corps uniform: coat, pants, belt…trombone?
It was for wounded warrior Ixchel Perez — she served in the Marine Corps band for nearly a decade as a trombonist and vocalist.
“Marines can make a difference in their community with or without a rifle,” Ixchel said. “We can change hearts and minds with our actions and with our words. Having that versatility as a Marine musician was really beneficial.”
The sounds of Semper Fidelis underscored her service to our country, which gave her incredible opportunities like performing the national anthem for an Anaheim Ducks hockey game near her hometown in southern California.
But in 2018, Ixchel had to face the music instead of playing it: an ankle injury ended her military career that she worked so hard to earn.
“As a female service member, it’s almost like you have to do twice as much just to be on the same standing ground,” Ixchel said. “I can’t have any flaws to be considered decent. If there are any flaws, like an injury, everything comes crashing down. That’s what happened for me.”
Suddenly, the structure, the order, the camaraderie was gone.
“I couldn’t talk to civilians, I couldn’t talk to my family, I couldn’t relate to anybody. It was very isolating,” Ixchel said.
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) began its Women Warriors Initiative to better understand the issues women veterans face. In WWP’s Women Warriors Initiative Survey, less than half of women warriors felt respected for their service (47%), and 80% scored as lonely, which highlights the need for social support.
WWP is one of the places Ixchel reached out to for help. Little by little, she took advantage of the free services WWP provides.
“Having that variety of programs for veterans was a really big, important factor to me,” Ixchel said.
Creating a New Identity
While she became more comfortable interacting with people in-person, Ixchel took advantage of a different type of connection opportunity through the video livestreaming platform Twitch.
“When I started on Twitch, it was like ‘OK, maybe if I stream, people might want to talk while I’m playing video games,’” Ixchel said.
That’s when she assumed her new online identity: MayanGoddess. What’s the meaning behind the name? Ixchel is the name of a 16th-century Mayan goddess.
But despite the powerful identity, Ixchel still faced gender discrimination, just like she did as a female veteran.
“I’ve had people who are like, ‘It must not be you playing because you’re doing really well. There must be somebody under the table or there must be a guy playing,’” Ixchel said.
Ixchel wants to make sure female gamers don’t listen to that kind of criticism.
“Gaming is for young and old, male and female. Regardless of race or ethnicity, gaming is for everyone,” Ixchel said. “It’s nice to show that side and bridge the gap for people who may not be comfortable with female gamers in the gaming industry.”
Ixchel has used her platform not only to empower other women but to raise support for fellow veterans and their families through WWP. It gives her a chance to connect personally with her community and share her story of how she’s found help.
“I’m compelled to give back as a ‘thank you’ and to pass that torch forward to the next service members, the next veteran so that they know that they can get the same help and treatment that I did,” Ixchel said.
And if that wasn’t enough…there’s another group of people Ixchel supports. And, sometimes, for her, it’s like a whole new world.
See, Ixchel is also active in the cosplay community. Cosplayers enjoy dressing up in costumes of make-believe characters.
Ixchel loves to visit with children in hospitals to brighten their day. One of her most memorable experiences was when she dressed up as Princess Jasmine from the movie Aladdin.
“There was this one girl who just didn’t want to talk to the nurses or doctors. She saw me as Princess Jasmine, and she had the Princess Jasmine earrings, and all she wanted to do was talk to me. For the first time she was there, she was happy,” Ixchel recalled. “To have that moment of, ‘I made a difference in a kid’s life,’ it’s very similar to when I was in the Marine Corps, and I thought, ‘I made a difference in my community.’”
From kids in hospitals to gamers online to fellow injured veterans — Ixchel has given back to them all.
Isn’t it appropriate, then, that the character she enjoys dressing up as most is Wonder Woman?
A real-life superhero, indeed.
Contact: Chris Obarski — Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.570.0823
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.