Marine Lioness Ashton Kroner in Afghanistan
Not many women can list “Marine” on their resumes. Even fewer can list “Lioness”, a title reserved for women who have served in combat roles. Ashton Kroner is proud to list them both. Currently serving as Outreach Coordinator for Road Home, a program of The Center for Veterans and Their Families in Chicago, Ashton is one of many Veterans who continue to serve their country and community once the active duty uniform comes off.
Ashton knew in high school that she wanted to join the Marines, so she went to Boot Camp at age 18, completing Basic Training at Paris Island, SC. She learned quickly to follow orders, including the Drill Instructors’ absolute rule of never referring yourself as “I’, “me”, and “mine”. “Like everyone else, I referred to myself as ‘this recruit’,” Ashton said. “Right away you learn that it’s about ‘us’, not ‘me’. Otherwise, there’s hell to pay.”
In 2009, she was assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C. as a field radio operator. Ashton then deployed with the 1st Communication Battalion, 8th Marines in Iraq and was sent on temporary duty assignment as a Lioness, gathering intelligence from local women. “This was before official approval allowing women to become attached to infantry,” she explained. “It was a gateway to what later became known as Female Engagement Teams.” In 2015, the Pentagon formally opened up frontline combat positions to women.
After completing a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, Ashton became a recruiter in the Albany, N.Y. area. “I was good at identifying young men and women who wanted to belong to something bigger than themselves. They wanted to be part of something important.”
She left the Marines in 2015. “An injury ended my career,” Ashton said.
Ashton is married to Casey, a fellow Marine. The couple have a daughter, Kaydence, and a son, C.J., who was diagnosed with autism early on. “I knew nothing about autism at this point in my life,” Ashton said. “I had to learn a lot very quickly. Living with someone with special needs can be difficult. It has opened my eyes to the rapidly changing mood swings that can occur. I feel it has helped me at Road Home, especially when I work with service members returning home. Some of them are struggling with how to work through their different emotions.
“Coming out of combat, some battle demons, have meltdowns and struggle to cope once they return to their families,” Ashton said. She described one Veteran who had completed Road Home’s three-week intensive outpatient program. “We encourage Veterans to invite their families to the graduation ceremony,” she said. “This one guy grabbed his two-year-old son and told everyone there that this was the first time he had ever been able to hug his son.”
Ashton knows firsthand that separation can strain relationships, and that families sacrifice right along with service members. “They pay a price,” she said. “They struggle too. That’s why Road Home programs include the care of loved ones as much as possible.”
Ashton’s service continues beyond Road Home. She’s on a panel that will discuss an upcoming film about women serving in combat. Called Lioness, the film will be shown on June 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the JIC Community Development Corporation in Waukegan (see related story for details). She also supports the work of Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation. We’re happy for the partnership.
An injury may have ended Ashton’s Marine career. But it did not end her career of service.￼