I nominate Mary Dague as victory goddess of the year. She’s as outside the box as you can get. She is so tough she could break glass with her eyes, and you’d never know who in the room did it. You’d think it wasn’t her because after all, she got both arms blown off when a bomb detonated and her face is mangled, and she’s nearly deaf. She still goes by instinct. She probably did everything by instinct before – like when she up and joined the Army, moving into a bomb unit. About that instinct to join the Army… she was all set to get married after high school and, her future mother in law, in Mary’s words, “pulled me into the kitchen and was like, ‘Don’t worry, Mary, I’m going to train you to be the perfect housewife.’ It scared the hell out of me. I joined the Army life a week later.”
She has the rebel in her, simple and undeterred and unapologetic.
So far, very different from Nike of Samothrace. But then in doing her job, a bomb starting rolling off a truck. Mary reached for it and it exploded, causing her to lose her arms. During the StoryCorps interview on NPR, she paused, and years later, what does she say? She brags about the great t-shirt collection she has: “Worst drummer ever.” It is sweetly delivered with shocking political incorrectness to a T. She follows with “Thumb Wrestling Champion.”
Dague is a different Nike: Just Do It generation. She’s like Juno, the protagonist of the indie movie of the same name, who has a undivided sense of herself that nothing can quite shake. She can’t imagine being a victim. While everybody is feeling sorry for her, she’s laughing herself to sleep. “I don’t know if I could lead a happier life now,” Mary says. The Nike of Samothrace shows the goddess touching down amidst winds and struggle as she encounters the human sphere. Mary is the woman sailing above the morass towards a different, very human kind of victory.