TEANECK, N.J. — Sasha Gonzalez had the odds working against her when she joined the U.S. Army National Guard at the Teaneck Armory.
She was Hispanic. She was a single mom. In 2015, after the birth of her second daughter, she had another soldier telling her she was better off dropping out.
But Gonzalez -- a chemical specialist in Military Police Unit 208 -- was recently promoted to staff sergeant and is fighting for single moms across the U.S.
"Being a mom is hard, period," said Gonzalez, a mom of two. "Being a single mom in the military is even harder, and a lot of single moms leave."
The 27-year-old joined the military in 2007, and had her first daughter in 2011. In 2015, she had her second -- and began doubting herself.
Gonzalez was caring for her mom who had Hodgkin's Lymphoma, her 4-year-old and newborn daughters, and working part time at the Teaneck Armory as a chemical specialist when another soldier started encouraging her to leave the military.
"It's easy for single moms to leave the military," said Gonzalez of West New York. "And there was a point where I was really about to."
But then, she met Staff Sgt. Javier Colon, who Gonzalez said saw something in her that she didn't see in herself.
"He came up to me and asked me what was wrong," Gonzalez said. "I told him my story and he asked what I was going to do to fix it.
"He simply wouldn't take no for an answer."
In the next five weeks, Gonzalez lost 40 pounds and enrolled herself in classes working toward her associates degree.
She was recently accepted to Rutgers' law program and is back to working full time at the Armory and attending classes after work.
Gonzalez is preparing to head to Missouri for more training and will miss her older daughter's birthday, but she knows that there is no other path for her than the one she's on.
"Being around the people you're around in military made me get my head straight," she said.
"The army made me take responsibility for my kids, and I wouldn't be the person I am if it wasn't for the uniform I wear."
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