In celebration of the 101st Anniversary of the first woman enlisting in the Navy, we are sharing Dream Vacations’ Franchise Owner and Navy Veteran Marci DeWitt’s story and her journey to becoming a travel agent.
Anchors aweigh! Wow! I can’t believe that it’s the 101st Anniversary of the first woman enlisting in the Navy. The skills and the ability of women have been overlooked for long enough. Being more inclusive has been good for everyone, even though I still think that people picture most veterans as male. Women continue to achieve and reach goals in the military that I never thought possible and I couldn’t be prouder to be a small part of that sisterhood.
I enlisted in the U.S. Navy halfway through my senior year of high school in 1975, although I didn’t leave until September of that year. The Vietnam War was declared officially over just as I was signing up for early enlistment. Growing up on a small farm in Northeast Ohio, I couldn’t wait to see horizons further from home and the military seemed like the best way to accomplish that. My father was a World War II Veteran and was excited for me to join. He felt that it was great way to grow-up while being part of something bigger. I wanted to be a nurse and was guaranteed a slot as a hospital corpsman. I planned on going to college after my four-year stint on the G.I. Bill and I couldn’t wait for my adventure to begin.
I flew on my first airplane to go to basic training in Orlando, Fla. The 10 weeks of boot camp forced a company of 60 women to dress, clean, learn and march together. Lifetime friendships were made and we parted to serve the Navy is many ways. Women were still not allowed on ships so there were not as many women serving as men. Most of us new recruits went off to “C” school to learn specialized skills. I attended Corps School in Great Lakes, Ill.
My father passed away suddenly at 52 just before I started school. It changed my initial interest in asking for duty station in Europe, I now had to stay closer to home. I finished Corps School in Great Lakes and got stationed at the hospital there for my remaining time. My four years zoomed by quickly and I was soon attending the University of Akron. While I didn’t get to travel to far flung locations in the Navy, I did meet people from every type of background and I traveled vicariously to every corner of the world.
Life with Dream Vacations
Late in life at 59, I was lucky enough to come across information about a travel agency franchise called CruiseOne (now Dream Vacations). My son was graduating from high school and my mother-in-law who had lived with us for many years was going to live with my brother-in-law. It was the perfect time to explore new opportunities. My husband and I had been big travelers and now I learned it was possible to turn that passion into an occupation. I was thrilled when I applied for and was awarded a franchise through its Operation Vetrepreneur national contest. It has been a grand opportunity and I love it more every day.
I have been out of the Navy for so long that I have forgotten what life skills the Navy established early in my life to be reflected in my business. I suspect it was the general interest and curiosity in people and places, as well as the ability to complete a task. Service before self is another trait that has carried over from my time in the Navy.
While I’m strong in sales and interested in making money, my focus is on service. If we do our best to meet our client’s needs, the rest will come. My favorite thing about being a travel agent is the opportunity to introduce clients to the world. I just got a note from a client that said that they would be spending Spring Break at home if not for me working within their budget and timeframe. I don’t take that responsibility lightly and know that I get the opportunity to expand people’s world view and create memories for a lifetime.
My advice for other women from the military would be, “jump in with both feet!” It’s always fun and always different. There is much to learn but you get to be your own boss and grow your own business with the highest standards. You set the tone and can grow as big as you can dream.
Winning and owning a Dream Vacations franchise continues to be a dream come true for me. The training and support operate on the highest level. All of the employees are accessible and are there to support your success and minimize your mistakes. While it is your own business, you never feel like you are alone but part of a much bigger team. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by another day.