Army Sgt. Sandra Coast graduated from U.S. Army Basic Combat Training at the age of 51, finishing training with one of the highest physical fitness test scores in her company after having to lose 30 pounds just to qualify for basic training.
"I was impressed, because she can do everything the younger soldiers do," Army 1st Sgt. John Byars said of Coast, according to the Armed Forced Press Service (AFPS). "She never expected us to feel sorry for her. She even got one of the highest Army physical fitness test scores in the company. She is a prime example that age is just a number. She ran faster than soldiers young enough to be her kids."
Coast served in the Navy from 1982 to 1993, so she was allowed to enter military service at her age, whereas most civilians would not be eligible. "Everybody in the world thinks I am a total nutcase," she told AFPS. "I just want to support our troops. I love all of them."
The age difference between Coast and most recruits was sometimes hard for her, but did not impede the other recruits' support for her. "They treat me as an equal," Coast said. "The males, especially, have the utmost respect. They will do little things that they probably aren't supposed to do, like give me their seat on the bus and hold the doors for me. It's the little things that mean so much."
Coast will not serve in active duty situations, due to her age, but instead serve with a virtual unit that works by phone and internet. She also has a son in the United States Marine Corps. "I am thrilled to wear the title of sergeant in the U.S. Army, but the title that is also very near and dear to my heart is Marine mom," Coast added to AFPS. "You can't beat that."