“Sugar Momma” is how Sgt. Victor Perez refers to his wife; a loving nickname since she is the senior sergeant and receives their housing allowance. Her paycheck is bigger.
Victor and his wife Sgt. Kara Perez are administrators at 9th Marine Corps District Headquarters here. They’ve been together most of their Marine Corps career and adult life. They’ve helped each other accomplish many things, but they’ve only just started and have big plans for their future. They’re opening a gym together.
Victor was born in New York City and grew up in Puerto Rico and Wingdale, N.Y. He joined the Marine Corps in September 2003 when he was 18 because he wanted to experience the same change he saw in his friends who also joined. Today, he peruses from office to office in between his duties. With a smile, he shows his appreciation for his fellow Marines by calling out nicknames and pumping up their egos with exaggerated compliments.
Kara is from Lake Mary, Fla. She left college for the Marine Corps in May 2003 to find independence from her father’s support. She has family history in the Air Force, but she wanted to break out and do something she felt was crazy and difficult. Her posture is so proper that she seems to glide when she walks. With fair skin and bleach-blonde hair, she often breaks into dance sporadically. When she enters a room, she may cock her hip to the side with her hand on it and greet a fellow Marine with “Howdy” and a tip of an imaginary hat.
Victor sees positive humor as the foundation of their relationship.
“We’re both goofy Marines,” he said. “We have fun, and we like to laugh. She’s goofy just like me.”
The two met in 2004 while partying with mutual friends one night outside Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan.
“I said ‘Ooh! That’s a cute Hispanic guy,'" Kara recalled. "'cause that's my type. I asked him to dance and whispered sweet nothings in his ear. The rest of the night, we just got to know each other. From that point on, I think he was courting me. We just clicked right away, and then we were inseparable.”
They each had a year-long tour on Okinawa, but Kara received orders and left a few months before the end of Victor’s tour. She was Victor’s first girlfriend, and he didn’t know if he would be stationed anywhere near her. He lucked out and the two soon found themselves together again at Parris Island, S.C. Victor proposed shortly after arriving. They married on Aug. 27, 2005 and their son, Roman, was born more than a year later on Oct. 2, 2006. Almost two weeks later they reenlisted.
“The support is unending,” Kara said. “I think -- truthfully -- I would’ve gotten out of the Marine Corps after four years if it wasn’t for Victor. We knew that the Marine Corps for another four years was the right path. We’ve accomplished so much on our second Marine Corps enlistment that I have no clue where we would be without reenlisting.”
They got transferred to Kansas City together in January 2007. Kara, who completed her freshman year at the University of Central Florida before joining, resumed her studies in human resources full time. Victor began studying business online with the University of Phoenix, but it didn’t hold his interest. He stopped just a few credits shy of an associate’s degree.
Instead, Victor began noticing many of his fellow Marines “trying to kill themselves” doing a new workout program.
“I watched them and thought ‘that’s crazy,” Victor said. “There’s no way I’m gonna do that.’ I kept watching them and I saw their results, which were phenomenal. I went for it, and it was fun, different, exciting. Something new.”
CrossFit, a combination of weightlifting, sprinting, and gymnastics, became Victor’s passion.
“It just makes sense,” Victor explained. “It’s functional fitness; especially for those in the military. It just teaches Marines and anybody in general how to lift and be a more athletic person. You’re gonna be faster, stronger and quicker."
Victor continued to study more about proper fitness. He often recognized mistakes he made in the past.
“I wasn’t taking supplements, but I went from doing nothing to power lifting; worst idea ever,” Victor exclaimed. “I would throw on some heavy weights and try to get big. When you’re 18, it kind of works out but when you get older you start tearing shoulders, hurting your back."
In Okinawa before his "enlightenment," Victor continued to lift despite a herniated disc in his back and stretch marks from muscles that expanded past his skins elasticity.
"I wish I knew then what I know now," Victor said.
Kara noticed his interest in proper fitness and urged him to make it a career. She and Victor are both concerned about health issues such as childhood obesity, which can lead to life-threatening conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep problems, cancer, and other disorders. 35 percent of school-aged children in America are obese, according to a report published Jan. 10, 2010 by The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“He has a passion for wanting to help people and wanting to change those statistics,” Kara said.
Victor seemed to ignore her at first, but Kara refused to give up. He eventually started considering the idea of opening his own gym. Victor wanted to be sure he was going about the idea the right way. He wanted to be confident that he knew what he was talking about.
He began attending a seven-month long personal fitness trainer program. During the course, he interned at a gym where his first client was a 45 year-old mom. In personal training he found his opportunity to realize his high school dream of becoming a teacher.
“It was just a blast,” Victor exclaimed. “Just motivating people and helping them out. Personal trainers can help prevent things like obesity. We can be the first defense against health issues such as diabetes. It helps people live better and gives you a sense that you’re doing something good for the community. I get the best of both worlds; I get to help people and I get to do something I love.”
Meanwhile, Kara created an entire business plan for their future gym during a project for school. By the end of 2008, they were certain the plan was what they wanted to do. Building their own gym became their new focus for their future careers.
He graduated and earned his certification in personal fitness in early 2009 and went on to get his certification as a CrossFit trainer as well.
In May 2010, Kara received her bachelor’s degree in human resources from Ottawa University. She will soon begin a course to get her certification in CrossFit training. The two plan to leave the Marine Corps in October. Victor has already purchased the equipment for his gym which he will start running out of his garage. He registered his gym as an affiliate of CrossFit, Inc., called CrossFit Blue Falcon. Kara is using her degree to find a well-paying job to support the family while Victor focuses on building his client base. Eventually, he plans to expand and open a store front facility. Their goal is to build up the gym as a business strong enough to support their family.
“We’re taking it slowly,” Victor said. “We want to put out a good product, sell ourselves well, and keep our reputation high. We’re maintaining high standards for our business just like the Marine Corps.”
Kara is confident in their ability to work together professionally. For the past three years, the married couple worked out of the same office. Other married people often tell Kara how they could never work in the same office as their spouse the same way she does every day at work.
“The cool thing is that having these three years under our belt, I know we can work together every single day in our gym,” Kara said. “It just proves that even if we have disagreements or anything like that, we can work together.”
“If we wanted to we could just sit at our desk all day long and keep busy, not see each other. But we choose to,” Victor said. “We have a good working relationship.”
Kara understands how rare her marriage is. She’s proud of the success of their marriage.
“The love hasn’t dwindled since that first newly stage of boyfriend and girlfriend,” Kara said. “We’re pretty obsessed with each other.”
When she thinks about her family’s future she dreams of a healthy family, a still loving marriage, her son in college with everything he needs and a thriving business.
“And to go dancing with my husband all the time,” Kara said with a giggle and a shrug of her shoulders, staring off with a smile on her face and nodding her head at the thought.