Hope Mariacher, a 4-H alumna from Lee, NH, never thought that she would be selected to the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard. “I didn't feel like I was the kind of person they would select. I figured that I would go for it and the worst they could do is reject me. So, even though I was nervous, I stayed," she said.
Mariacher had to meet rigorous character standards, which were examined in an intense interview process. She soon learned that she was selected to join the official ceremonial unit of the Navy. Mariacher now participates in some of our nation’s most prestigious ceremonies, including presidential inaugurations and arrival ceremonies for foreign officials. In addition, the Navy Ceremonial Guard serves as the funeral escort and conducts all services for Navy personnel buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
What tipped the scales for the interviewers? Mariacher shared that her leadership experience in 4-H indicated that she would be a strong candidate for the elite unit. We caught up with Mariacher to learn about life in the Navy Ceremonial Guard and how 4-H helped land her the job.
What was the interview like?
I was one of the last ones to go up for my interview. I was sitting there with a guardsman and a staff member, answering questions about myself. I discussed what I did before I joined the Navy I enlisted six days after I turned 18, during my senior year of high school, and I waited six months to depart because I had committed to participating in 4-H events. They asked me about leadership experience, and I didn't just say I was a 4-H member. I listed everything, from being a 4-H club president, to serving as the communications chair on the very first Strafford County Youth Leadership Team, to acting on the 4-H Teen Conference planning commission and showing sheep.
I also did Fashion Revue. I made my first outfit in Kindergarten and sewed through high school. In 2018, I competed in a lead-line sheep class while wearing an outfit that I had made. It was a simple wool dress with a unique collar in a color that I loved (see photo above). I won Fashion Revue and was able to go to The Big E to represent New Hampshire. I competed in the New England Regional Make-it-with-Wool contest and won at the regional level, earning a spot in the national competition. It was great to represent at a national level with something that started as a county 4-H project.
Most people at that contest didn't grow up on a farm, which I thought was interesting. I ended up being in the top 20 for my age group. To be able to go to a contest like that and develop my interviewing skills was a great experience.
The Navy interviewers had also asked me if I went through any hardships in life that have made me the person I am today. I told them about some of the bullying I had experienced when I was younger. I was able to push through that because of 4-H.
I walked out of the interview and felt great. I honestly blew myself away, having said out loud everything that I had accomplished in 4-H.
How did being in 4-H get you through bullying?
I got bullied in school for how I looked. I looked like a farm kid. My close friendships in 4-H and my animals helped me get through some tough days. I would go straight to the barn after a tough day and spend time with my animals. My friends from 4-H—we just connected on a different level. I am two years out of high school now and some of my closest friends are from 4-H and the County Youth Leadership Team. I don't know how to explain how strong the bonds are. I can go an entire year without seeing them but, when we are together, we reconnect instantly. It's a whole other level.
What skills from 4-H made you a good fit for the ceremonial guard?
I am the oldest of four kids, so I naturally fit into a leadership role. Throughout 4-H I held many different leadership roles—not just in my club, but also in my county and for the state. Knowing how to lead means knowing how to listen to your people, helping them and advocating for them. That’s what I believe a leader does. I was the youngest in my 4-H club, and there I learned how to be a team player and follow a leader. It's good to have been both a leader and a follower and know that people will take you seriously when you have confidence in yourself.
What do you like the most about what you are doing now?
Daily, I perform military honors for fallen sailors at Arlington National Cemetery. I perform the three volleys (ceremonial act performed at military funerals involving the party firing blank cartridges into the air three times) before TAPS is performed. I'm in the large escort, making it a full honors ceremony. It is a very humbling job to be able to perform at someone's funeral. It's amazing to march through the cemetery while the American Flag and Navy Flag are waving in the wind. To be able to march with a fallen sailor and their family is such an honor. I got to be a part of a funeral for a Vietnam veteran whose remains were recently discovered. It's hard. I perform at more funerals in a week than some people attend in a lifetime. It is an intense but rewarding job. I am regularly moved by emotion, but it's part of the job. I also perform ceremonies at the White House and Pentagon. I've seen and even been close to President Trump a few times. I've seen people who I studied in boot camp and now I see them regularly.
Do you ever miss New Hampshire?
Yes! I do! The weather here is nothing like New Hampshire. I miss having animals around all the time. They are such an important part of my life. I am an eighth-generation farmer.
Is there anyone in the 4-H community who had a significant impact on you?
Lynn Garland. She was one of my first leaders and has always given me support in everything I have done. Sally Barney, she was like a second grandma to me. Theresa Walker was such a big inspiration to me and helped me through some tough times. And, of course, Jolee Chase. I would not have gotten some of the leadership opportunities without her. 4-H was a second family.
If you were talking to someone about joining 4-H what would you say to them?
DO IT. Do it! It will be the best decision of your life. You will make the best of friends. You will get to meet so many people. You will travel. You will build your resume. A lot of people, just knowing that I am in 4-H, will offer me a job right out of the gate because being a 4-H’er tells them what kind of person I am. The leadership skills that you get from being in 4-H will help you. Look at the famous 4-H alumni who have made a name for themselves. Also, give back to 4-H whenever you can. It is not an organization that you have to be done with when you age out. It is easy to volunteer, to be a leader and to be active alumni. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made to become a 4-H’er. I owe so much to 4-H.