Growing up, Ranjini Danaraj never considered the military as a career choice.
But when the Redmond native was a senior in high school looking at colleges, she realized she needed a way to pay for it. So Danaraj applied for the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC scholarships. The 1998 Redmond High School (RHS) graduate received an Army ROTC scholarship and attended the University of Southern California — majoring in economics and minoring in psychology.
Post graduation, she blew through her required eight years of army service, four in active duty and four in the immediate ready reserve. During these eight years, Danaraj was surprised to discover how rewarding her job was and how much she enjoyed what she was doing.
“Initially, I was looking for ways to fund my college education,” she said.
Danaraj, now 30, admits to being nearsighted when it comes to planning ahead and “hadn’t really thought that much forward about” what she wanted to do after completing her required service. With no other ideas, she continued with the army. Danaraj just completed her ninth year and is currently a military police officer for the army.
She has been stationed all over, from the Middle East and South Korea overseas to Tennessee and Missouri stateside — her role changing with each deployment.
When Danaraj left Redmond for college, there was no movie theater, town center or specialty grocery stores. Her time in the army kept her away from home longer and she said the difference between then and now is huge.
“You can definitely see the growth in the community over the last decade,” Danaraj said.
In July 2010, Danaraj was stationed at Fort Lewis after a seven-month deployment in Iraq, where she was a commander for the 66th Military Police Company. She’d been stationed at the Tacoma military base in September 2006, but wasn’t able to see her loved ones often.
For her second time back to the Northwest, she decided to return to Redmond and commute to work. Danaraj, who attended Redmond Elementary and Redmond Junior High schools, moved in with her mother — back into the house she grew up in — and took the opportunity to nurture her relationships with family and friends. Danaraj, an outdoor enthusiast, also spent time biking, hiking and just spending time outside.
“It’s good to get out,” she said.
While serving, Danaraj has been honored and received the Bronze Star Medal twice in the past nine years.
She said Memorial Day, which is Monday, is a great opportunity for the country to honor all the sacrifices the men and women have made throughout the years. Danaraj said it’s an opportunity to remember all of the hard-fought battles that have helped preserve the way of life in the United States as well as around the world.
Danaraj plans to continue her career in the army and next week, will begin a three-year program that will help broaden her experiences. She will spend a year at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., earning a master’s degree in policy management. Afterwards she will spend a year as an intern with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and then another year with the Army Chief of Staff.
Danaraj is looking at her next step as a chance for growth and development in her career. She’s excited to begin this next step.
“It’s kind of a unique experience,” she said about the program.
She added that she is also looking forward to having a little more balance in her life since the last nine years have mostly revolved around work.
Danaraj has been in the other Washington since January when she left Redmond to attend an army school for about four months. Since she arrived, in addition to her studies, she has done a little bit of exploring around the nation’s capital — her favorite part being the numerous monuments around town.
“They honor awesome people from our nation’s history,” she said.
Although she has been “all over the world” and is currently across the country, Danaraj will never forget her roots and has many fond memories of Redmond.
“Redmond’s always going to be my home,” she said.