At 19 years old, Shannon Ihrke made a life-changing decision: she was going to join the marines. She wanted to commit to her country fully. After she finished her service, she transferred those skills into a new job.
Her Double Life
Before joining the military, Shannon did what many Americans do. After high school, she chose the traditional route of attending a four-year college near her home. College life, however, was not all she had dreamed it up to be and she looked for something else to do.
Country At Heart
Shannon’s story starts out in a small town on the Northern edge of Minnesota called Walker. Growing up in such a small place like Walker, Shannon learned early on how to take care of herself. Minnesota has tons of space for outdoor adventures, and Shannon took advantage of it, especially the nearby Leech Lake. She loved to go horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. Feeling like one of the guys was great, but Shannon wanted more than a small rural town life.
Setting Off Alone
Following her graduation from high school, Shannon enrolled at a university like many of her peers, selecting to attend St. Cloud State University. She got to school ready to pursue her degree in marketing, but had to take on a job to help pay her bills and tuition. Shannon added another job because one job was not enough to keep her afloat. As she struggled financially, Shannon began questioning if school was the right choice for her.
Finding A Third Way
Something had to give for Shannon. She was running herself mad trying to keep up with school work and her multiple jobs. It put her under an immense amount of stress, and she began questioning the possibility of leaving for something else. One day, Shannon was walking around campus when she came across an ad that changed her train of thought. She stumbled into an Army enlistment ad, and she could not get the thought out of her head.
Top Of The Barrel
Joining the United States Military was a huge decision, and Shannon wanted to make sure that she did not make the wrong decision about enlisting and in which branch of the military to enlist. She started researching the differences between the Army, Navy, and Air Force before settling on the Marines. The recruiter felt that she would not make it with the Marines. His comments only fueled Shannon to make it work. She decided that she would be joining the Marines.
From St. Cloud To South Carolina
Shannon’s military career began with basic training boot camp in South Carolina. Shannon had no illusions about how difficult it would be to become a marine. Over and over she replayed in her head the moment the recruit told her that she wasn’t cut out for it. It only made her more determined to complete basic training and stand out in doing so. She wanted to prove that a pretty girl could break the mold.
Overcoming The Barriers
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Shannon said, “A lot of the Marines initially thought that I might not be able to keep up physically, or that I somehow wasn’t ‘as strong’ as them, so I made it my mission to prove them wrong.” She never wanted to think of herself at a disadvantage. For motivation, she would think about the scene in the Disney film Mulan with Mulan sitting on top of the massive pillar.
Taking No Prisoners
To make it in the Marines, you not only need to be physically tough but also mentally tough with the right attitude. Shannon said, “I came in guns blazing in order to show that I wasn’t someone that could be pushed around, brushed off, or not taken seriously. It was hard, but it was also completely necessary.” She was not the strongest of the bunch and began noticing some of the stronger women cracking under the pressure of boot camp. That could not happen to her.
Finding Her Place
With boot camp in her rearview mirror, Shannon was commissioned to her new post as an administrative specialist at a base in South Carolina. She was excited to start her new role as an administrative specialist, one that seemed perfectly suited for her sharp wit and organizational skills. While, no, she was not serving on the front lines, Shannon still felt like she was contributing something promising to the great work of the Armed Forces.
Earning A New Stripe
Due to her hard work ethic, Shannon began quickly rising through the ranks of the Marine Corps. She worked for two years in South Carolina before she was transferred to a new office in Rock Island, Illinois. Shannon had had a great and meaningful time in South Carolina. One of the biggest perks was the extra weeks of warm weather that eluded her in Minnesota. With her new job on the horizon, Shannon would be heading back to the midwest.
Rock Island Blues
Her new placement in Rock Island did not only offer an opportunity to be closer to home but also a chance for Shannon to tackle a new job. She was tasked with Inspector-Instructor duty, also known as I&I. After her couple years in South Carolina, Shannon became well suited for her new leadership role. She did everything she could to serve her country as best as she could. Other Marines respected her, and she left the Marines with the rank of Sergeant.
The Unintended Consequences
Shannon’s Marine Corp experience was truly special for her. She went in hoping to gain something out of it personally and came out of with a new family. She had heard stories of this sort of thing happening but never believed that their shared experiences would bring her so close to her fellow Marines. Whether on a spiritual level, a professional level, or a familiar level, Shannon felt connected with her peers. That connection would continue to affect Shannon.
Reflections On Service
Joining the Marines gave Shannon a new perspective on life. She said in a recent interview, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. However, the Marines don’t have that problem. I became part of something that was bigger than myself, and I loved it.” With these lessons in hand, Shannon was ready to take on a new challenge. She now had to prepare to return to civilian life.
Charting A New Course
Towards the end of her service, Shannon decided to blow off some steam. She had heard about a competition to become one of Maxim’s “Girls Next Door” and decided to enter. Although she is quite pretty, Shannon was surprised to hear that she was a finalist for the spot. It hit her that she could perhaps have a career in that sort of work. Modeling sounded interesting, but she hedged her bet by looking into traditional options as well.
The Opportunities Available
Shannon finally was discharged from the Marines and decided that the best thing she could do was go back to school. Shen enrolled at Elmhurst College and continued studying for her marketing degree. In addition, she tacked on a double major in science as well. Coming off the surprisingly successful contest with Maxim, Shannon entered herself into a contest to become the next Loop Rock Girl at a local radio station. Unlike last time, Shannon was not only a finalist but was selected for the spot.
Loop Rock Girl
She was excited to become a Loop Rock Girl, and the radio station was thrilled to have her on board. Usually, the station changed the title of the Loop Rock girl from year to year. They loved her so much that they offered her the spot permanently. She was thrilled to have found this job, bringing home steady pay each week. It was a great supplement to her modeling gigs as she participated in projects like the Loop Rock Calendar.
Celebrating Her Gifts
Shannon loved her new modeling opportunities. It was quite the change of pace from her four years in the Marines dressed in fatigues and fitting in as “one of the guys.” She could let her feminine side out and revel in the flashbulbs of the camera. Shannon continued to dive deeper into modeling work, finding any jobs that she could. She became an MMA ring girl, which seemed like a perfect match for the beautiful former Marine.
Celebrating Their Own
While Shannon began to appear in advertisements, her former squad was shocked to see her in that capacity. They were used to her in her leadership role, so it was bizarre to see her half-clothed. Some loved finding her in ads. She said, “Marines that I’ve worked with in the past are asking me to sign calendars and magazines for them and their friends now, and that’s kind of weird but very cool at the same time because it shows how supportive they are!”
Suggestive Poses And Undress
Her former comrades might have supported Shannon’s new career, but not everyone was wild about it. Shannon’s parents did not exactly approve of her suggestively posing half naked. During an interview with The Chicago Tribune, Shannon detailed why they objected to her job.“My family is a very Christian and conservative family originally from a small town in Minnesota. When I started modeling, my mom said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ She wanted me to stay in the Marine Corps…”
The Need To Move On
Modeling was not supposed to turn into a career for Shannon. During her interview with The Daily Mail, Shannon confessed, “Had I not had other dreams I still wanted to accomplish in my life I would have re-enlisted without hesitation… and although I am no longer on active duty, I will always bleed green.” She might have found a new line of work which she loved, but nothing could ever replace how she felt about the Marines.
Pushing Her Body
Although Shannon is naturally beautiful enough to be a model, it does not mean that she does not work hard to keep herself looking great. She sticks to a strict workout regimen, which she picked up during the Marines and is committed to getting the most out of her body. Shannon does at least four gym workouts per week in addition to running long distances. Workouts are not Shannon’s only active pastime though. She still loves horseback riding when she can.
Indulging Her Senses
Exercise and staying fit are important to Shannon, but not as much as being an inspiration to other girls. That means being open about her workouts but also her love of delicious foods. She said,”My favorite foods include prime rib, bananas foster, french silk pie, and I’ve been known to crave a Big Mac or too! I do a lot of cooking and baking. My specialties include biscuits and gravy, BBQ pulled chicken, caramel brownies, and stuffed mushrooms!”
One thing about Shannon is that she is not afraid to share her experiences. She told G.I. Jobs about her transition from Marine to model, something that was not as easy as it might seem. “A lot of people have military backgrounds nowadays so it’s important to find other things that make you stand out as well. You have to put together a great resume, work your tail off, and let any rejection you might receive motivate you instead of discourage you.”
Giving Back To Veterans
Serving her country in the Marine Corp is not the only thing Shannon has done to support the Armed Forces. Not surprisingly, she wanted to continue to help veterans after she completed her service. She started a charity called Committed to Courage. Shannon told Moll Magazine, “I created this charity as a way of giving back to veterans who have served and for those who are currently serving. I know how….difficult it can also be to transition back to civilian life from the military.”
Didn’t Have Expenses
It seems a bit obvious but, but Shannon observed one major difference between military service and civilian life. The Marines had made most of her decisions for her for four years. Now, she was thrust into a world with plenty of expenses. She said that in the Marines “the only bills I had were on my car and my cell phone.” Now that she was on her own, she had more bills that she expected and needed to be on her modeling hustle.
Why We Fight
Shannon received a huge profile in The Daily Mail. In it, she spoke openly about why she and other people decide to join the military instead of leading full lives as private citizens. Surprisingly, the decision is generally not a political one. She said, “Some Marines fight for our politicians, but most, do not. We fight for our families, our friends, and most of all for our brothers and sisters to the left and right of us in uniform.”
The Big City Life
One of the reasons that Shannon chose to attend Elmhurst was its proximity to her base in Illinois. The college was a perfect place for her since she was familiar with the area and due to its proximity to Chicago, she could easily find modeling gigs as she studied. Slowly but comfortably, she made the transition from Marine to student and model. Photographers increasingly liked working with her due to the level of professionalism she brought to each shoot.
How Camaraderie Lingers
No matter how deep into modeling she gets, Shannon will never forget her experience as a Marine and what it taught her as a person. In the Daily Mail profile, she said, “You gain a new family when you become a Marine. You live together, eat together, workout together, hang out in your spare time together, fight with each other, and yet you’ll still do anything for each other, whether you like each other or not.”
Aiming Even Higher
When Shannon began modeling, she worked for a site called “Model Mayhem” which no longer exists. The Maxim competition put her on the map and helped her find more opportunities. Over the next few years, Shannon had more opportunities with Maxim, appearing in some print and online spreads for the publisher. Eventually, she began appearing in runway shows too. Many times, Shannon would bring her military background on stage dressed in patriotic-themed outfits or camouflage.
The big city life in Chicago was exciting, but Shannon decided to capture some of the tranquility from her childhood in Minnesota. In addition to modeling, she began training horses in Backus, Minnesota at the Sodbuster Sawyer Ranch. On her popular Instagram page, Shannon frequently shares photos of her and her horses to break up the slew of modeling shots that she posts. In addition, she will sometimes through in photos from her military days.
Thanks to her modeling, Shannon began expanding her profile beyond the clients for her shoots. She soon had many admirers who wanted to see more of her. Like many, Shannon opened an Instagram account to give her fans what they wanted. It did not take long for people to catch on to her beauty – she currently has over 72,500 followers. They loved seeing her professional shots, photos from her service, or photos of her just living her life. Eventually, she realized she could monetize her account.
Paid To Pose
Brands began noticing the Marine turned model and hoped that she would agree to work with them. Her military background attracted one clothing brand, in particular, 1776 United. Shannon became a brand ambassador for the company and would post photos while dressed in their patriotic-themed clothes. Their website link can be found in her Instagram bio. The company hopes to “evoke a sense of patriotism found in our forefathers.” The company seemed like the perfect fit for the former servicewoman.
An Insightful Beauty
In today’s world, the modeling industry comes with a negative stigma which touts that models are unintelligent and exploited in their work. Not only is Shannon educated and a former Marine, but she is also insightful and hopes to inspire those around her. Ihrke does not only post good looking photos of herself on Instagram. She also uses the platform to post inspiring quotes such as “You’re gonna be happy,” said life “but first I’ll make you strong.”
Women In The Marines
It might not seem so today, but it is a big deal that Shannon was accepted to the Marines in the first place. Women were not allowed to join the Marine Corps for years. Before World War II, it was absolutely out of the question. Not until a year into the United States’s involvement in World War II did the country establish a Women’s Reserve. The Marine Corps was the last sector of the military to seek gender equality.
Dating In The Military
Many people are curious about Shannon’s private life and have asked her about her dating life. The blonde beauty is candid when generally speaking about romance in the military. She said, “I’m a Marine sergeant, so the answer is an absolute yes! Guys in the military are the best.” No, she did not reveal any specifics into her own dating life, but she is happy to discuss the general dynamics of dating in the military.
Shannon and her modeling career really took off. One of her biggest spots was in Sports Illustrated. The weekly periodical is known for its famed swimsuit edition for which it selects only the most beautiful women on earth. Many celebrities such as Beyonce, Chrissy Teigen, and Kate Upton have appeared on the cover. She said about modeling in swimsuits, “I’m not a stick figure, and I’m not too curvy, I have a very healthy, toned body type, so I think that swimwear tends to be my forte.”
Even before her profile expanded, plenty of men tried to get a date with Shannon. She might have granted the date as long as they didn’t use a pickup line. She said, “There’s no such thing as a good pickup line so why men choose to keep trying them – I’ll never know.” Her advice for dating is, “Just be yourself. It’s not really rocket science. I just want to know who the person really is and whether or not we are compatible.”
From the start, Shannon has set her goals high. She always admired those in the armed forces, and when she knew that she wanted to be a part of it, she made sure to challenge herself. Shannon said, “When I heard that the Marine Corps was the toughest, I knew that was the branch I wanted to be a part of.” Through her dedication to her country and herself, Shannon proudly served the United States by sticking to her guns.
Respecting The Veterans
When Shannon’s story made it to the mainstream media, everyone wanted to know more about this military stunner and her story. With so much information floating on the internet around her, she made sure that she was portrayed appropriately. On one occasion, a publication listed her as an “ex-Marine.” She took offense to the comment and made sure to strike back on Twitter, commenting that ex-Marines don’t exist. After their service, the correct term is veteran.
In The Ring
Early in her modeling career, Shannon was approached about becoming a ring girl for ProElite MMA in Moline, IL. This led to an opportunity as a ring girl with Invicta FC as well, an all women’s mixed martial arts league. Even though her Marine training could help with fighting, Shannon never wanted to be a fighter. She only hoped to be in the ring as a ring girl. Shannon hopes that one day she can reach the top and be a part of UFC.
After years of looking for a steady man, naturally, Shannon took to Instagram to show off her man. Of course, he was a fellow Marine. She posted a photo of them together at the 2017 Marine Corps Ball. In the post, she rhetorically asked, “How did I get so lucky?” Whether she tried to turn away from it or went seeking within the organization she knew so well, Shannon clearly could not escape the Marines. Now, the Marines meant even more to her.
Advice To Grow With
What are Shannon’s tips to a successful life? She said, “Don’t ever stop pushing yourself, and don’t ever stop trying to get better and become a better person overall. That’s how I got where I am today.” She added, “I constantly work at improving myself in every aspect. If a little girl from Walker, Minnesota can become a Marine and also successfully model, then the skies truly are the limit.” It makes her day to hear how she has inspired others.