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Local Hairdresser Was On Mission To Join Military

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PHILADELPHIA -

This is the story of one of the newest members of the 82nd Airborne, a local soldier.

FOX 29's Steve Keeley shows us how the Army and the person have both really changed.

A King of Prussia Mall hair salon and a military recruiting office in North Philly don't have too much in common, except for Christina Gibson.

"I wanted to join the military," she says.

She was cutting hair and was not cut out for military at first sight.

"A little overweight, a little obese, you know?" the recruiter said.

"A little overweight or a lot?" Keeley asked him.

"It was a lot," the recruiter answered.

"So, you're a hairdresser in the King of Prussia Mall, and then one day you go, 'The heck with this, I'm going into the military?'" Keeley asked Gibson.

"Pretty much, yep," she said, laughing.

"Did you think first time you saw her would you ever see her again?" Keeley asked the recruiter.

"No, no, not at all," he answered.

The problem was her weight.

"She was overweight. She was very obese, very obese," the recruiter said.

Not only that, she was married and a mom to a little girl – nowhere near the typical teenage recruit coming through the recruitment office.

And if the recruiter had his doubts, imagine everybody back at the salon.

"I don't really think that they believed me at first," Gibson said. "But, the more I started working out, kept talking about it, the more they believed me."

At the salon, as the weight started quickly coming off, her clients started worrying who was going to do their hair if she kept at it.

"They thought I was nuts. My customers were like. 'Where are you going to go to? We'll follow you anywhere.' And I was like, 'Trust me, you don't want to follow me where I'm going,'" Gibson said.

The recruiter said, "At first, I thought it was is a one-day dream. And then, about two weeks later when she came back in, she said, 'I lost 14 pounds.' And I was like, 'In two weeks?'"

And the weeks, and weight, kept going.

"I lost about 65 pounds to be able to join military," Gibson said.

To which the recruiter said, "That's a lot of weight. That's a lot of weight."

It was in just three months, putting her in top condition to be tops in her boot camp, beating all the women, and most of the men, too, in runs, strength and agility exercises before going on to ace Airborne School, where she became a paratrooper – all of it in less than the past year.

"I was just sick of, like, being a hairdresser. I worked all weekend, every weekend, all of the holidays," Gibson said. "And I was just sick of working that much and having like no retirement, no benefits. And I just said, 'I want a career.'"

That is not eye shadow over her right eye. It's what is left of the black eye getting clocked on her way out have the plane on her very first jump.

"I jumped out of the airplane, and the risers caught my eye. So, I have my little souvenir from Airborne School," Gibson said.

And jumping careers from hairdresser to paratrooper never crossed her mind up there.

"You didn't have much time to think, did you?" Keeley asked.

"No, you don't have time to think about it," she said. "By the time you have time to be scared, you're already out the plane, and your chute is opened and you're not afraid anymore."

"But you did have time to think when you're in the plane and taking off. Did you just think, 'I could be doing some lady's hair right now at the KOP Mall?'" Keeley asked.

Gibson said, "No, I didn't think that. I was looking forward to it. I'm a thrill-seeker. So, jumping out of planes kind of suited me."

As the recruiter put it, "Some people, you know, they have a calling. And some people don't. And hers was her calling, and she felt at that time it was something for her to do."

Gibson's husband, a corporate manager at Subway, got transferred to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, home base to the 82nd Airborne. Her daughter is now in school there. Her body, her life and her calling are all different now.

"It's a lot different though," she said. "I'm used to wearing makeup and girlie-girl clothes, and now I don't have any of that. But I still get girly on my days off, so it is OK," she said.

Gibson plans to make the Army not just a quick in-and-out for her own good but a permanent, 30-year career.

She has lost a lot of weight but none of the desire to be one of the U.S. Army's best – a Philly girl now ready to go wherever the Army needs her.

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