When a publisher first got in touch with Spotsylvania County resident Tee Marie Hanible about writing a book about her experiences, she balked.

It wasn’t that the former Marine gunnery sergeant was nervous about the challenge.

After all, Hanible had already survived the mean streets of Chicago, a military career that included combat service and a challenging season as a team mentor on the max-challenge reality show “American Grit.”

“When they first asked me to tell the story of my life, it took a while to come to grips with the thought of putting myself out there,” said Hanible at her home in Spotsylvania. “Everything you’ve ever done comes out, the good and the bad.”

But facing and overcoming trials and tribulations are something Hanible knows all too well. So she eventually signed on to write “The Warrior Code: 11 Principles to Unleash the Badass Inside of You.” It’s being published this month, written with Denene Millner.

Hanible uses the book to mix her life story and personal challenges with chapters that each principles readers can use to unleash their full potential. And at the end of each, there are “Warrior Work” pages with a series of introspective questions.

The suggestion to shift from a pure autobiography to a self-help sort of book helped nudge Hanible to a yes. In the book, the author doesn’t shrink from sharing the toughest moments in her life, like when she and her brother were put into foster care as youngsters. Or when friendships and ties to gang members played a role in getting kicked out of high school and sent to a military reform school two hours away.

Though her life was touch and go there, she graduated and found something in the military discipline that eventually motivated her to join the Marines. But even that was a challenge, as an unexpected pregnancy delayed her enlistment.

“I think the chip I had on my shoulder, the toughness that came along with that, helped me in the toughest times and in boot camp as a Marine,” she said. “I wasn’t going to give up.”

In her 20-year Marine Corps career, jobs and postings in administration, motor transport, mortuary affairs, recruiting and diversity took her from North Carolina to California to Michigan, and then finally to Quantico, the spot she retired from.

Hanible was in the first class of females permitted to take the Marine combat-training course. On the night of the American invasion of Iraq, in the book she notes that she was in the convoy that crossed first across the desert sand, as an “A” gunner up front of a 7-ton vehicle.

“Our sole light source was the blasting rockets exploding and shimmying across the night sky,” she writes, “leaving a trail of light that signaled our reality: we were heading toward the danger.”

She acknowledges that in that moment, deep down, she asked herself, “What the hell did you sign up for?” But she adds that her inner Warrior and Marine training kicked in to remind her to serve as a model of calm and leadership.

Her career successes eventually led to her being featured in a Newsweek “Heroes Edition,” honored at the White House by President Barack Obama and to several other accomplishments after leaving the Marines.

The first of those was the stint on “American Grit,” a reality show where teams of contestants are pitted against one another in performing physically and mentally tough challenges in the shadow of Washington State’s Mount Rainier.

The show, hosted by professional wrestler and actor John Cena, used four “advisers” with military experience to be part of the squads. At times, those sometimes competing mentors joined their team in running, climbing and thinking their way toward a prize for the winners of a half million bucks.

She got the gig via an email inquiry from “American Grit,” noting that “One day I was a Marine wearing combat boots and about to retire, and the next I was on the set filming, going through wardrobe, hair and makeup. It was all new, as I’d never done anything like that before.”

She enjoyed the experience, but noted it included long days of filming and being pushed by difficult physical challenges in the shadow of Mount Rainier in early winter. There was danger involved, as well, and a member of her team fell on the mountainside and ended up in the hospital.

Since then, she’s done speaking engagements, gotten an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland University College, become the National Veteran’s Chair for the Woman’s March and started a unique charitable organization in Northern Virginia and D.C. called “Operations Heroes Connect.”

“Our mission is to partner at-risk kids with service members or veterans who act as full-time mentors to these kids for at least a year,” she said of the organization. “It’s almost like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but with a military twist.”

Hanible said she was motivated to start the children’s charity because of the way her foster parents made such a difference in her life.

“This past summer, we had a veteran who flew in from California to participate, on his own dime,” she said. “And we had an active-duty member who took leave and flew from Milwaukee as his own experience to be a part of it. There are extraordinary veterans and service members taking part in this.”

So what’s next for her?

“I’ve taken some politics classes recently and have been approached by people about possibly going into politics, but we’ll see,” she said, noting that with a lot happening recently, “I need time to decide what’s next.”

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Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415


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