A Duty To Her Country
Riley Tejcek defines patriotism in every sense of the word. The Team USA Bobsled pilot and United States Marine Corps Lieutenant grew up in a military family and won Miss Military 2023, representing her nation by wearing several different hats at the same time. It is for these reasons and more that she has been named the AFH Community Hero for the month of July.
Tejcek may have found her place now, but she had to pave a path she did not know was possible when she was young.
Tejcek landed a Division I softball scholarship at George Washington and was approached by a Marine recruiter after only a few days on campus. She was a trained athlete and loved challenges to her athletic background, which Marine Corps physical fitness requirements would bring.
Tejcek was immediately drawn in by the idea of representing her nation and traveling to fight for freedom, but she also knew she wanted to challenge the status quo.
“To represent females in a very male-dominated field was really important for me,” Tejcek said.
However, the military is only one patriotic hat Tejcek wears.
Riley is hoping to become the first female Marine Olympian at the 2026 Olympic Games as a bobsled pilot for Team USA.
She may trade her Marine Corps uniform in for a bobsled one on occasion, but pride for her country still exists no matter what Tejcek is doing.
“I want to show everybody the strength mentally, physically, emotionally that the United States has,” she said.
Many could view this lifestyle as overwhelming, but Tejcek simply knows staying present is the only way she can succeed in both aspects. Sleep may be lacking sometimes, but the goals and tasks in her mind never distract one mission from the other.
“I’m constantly present with where I am,” Tejcek said. “I’m rooted with ‘where am I’ with where my feet are, I’m all in and focused on that.”
Driving down a bobsled track at 90-plus miles an hour takes ultimate focus and training, both of which Tejcek has. Her prioritization is key to the lifestyle, but she also never tells herself she can’t do something, motivating her to try and become the best possible version of herself.
She has seen people tell themselves an idea is impossible simply because they haven’t seen it done before. Growing up in Carmel, Indiana, Riley was not near a major military base and had softball as her primary focus, but she knew if she could reach the Marines, then other people could have a figure to show them they, too, can become a United States Marine.
The same can be said about her journey to the United States Bobsled team. This time, though, Tejcek found inspiration through Elana Meyers Taylor, a five-time Olympic medalist, and former George Washington softball player.
“I saw Bobsled was having an online combine,” she said. “I just said, ‘You know what, I’m going to send it, I’m going to go for it.’ I want to see how I compete against some of the best women that this world has to offer.”
She went on to make the team and has become a four-year member of Team USA Bobsled.
While she had a nasty crash in training that led her to question her ability to pilot, along with moments of doubt when her schedule got too busy, she always remembers her mission to inspire and help others.
Winning Miss Military 2023 was a testament to her goals, and Tejcek has done lots of community service work over the past several months.
Pageants were not bathing suit competitions but focused on community service and visions for helping the military’s initiatives in volunteerism. Tejcek, as a multi-faceted member of the Marines, was the perfect pick for Miss Military.
In alignment with her church, she has worked with the homeless population in California, many of which included veterans, while also working with an orphanage in Tijuana and a special needs organization called Best Buddies.
“I think it’s important to use the gifts that we have and give back,” Tejcek said.
Whether it is the freedoms, rights, history, or strength that the United States embodies, Tejcek always knew she wanted to be an active honoree of the country. Yet for her to accomplish this goal in both service and sport was unfathomable for her.
“I always told people I never thought that I wanted to be a Marine officer because I never saw a female Marine officer,” Tejcek said. “I never saw a female officer period.”
She is now a logistics officer stationed in Quantico, Virginia, and knows that her faith and dedication have brought her to this point. She now has a platform to help others.
Riley continuously educates herself on the various topics she wants to support and utilizes lots of her time to help different populations.
“Taking the time to serve outside of yourself is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and give to others,” Tejcek said. “The easiest thing to do is pray. The second easiest thing to do is educate yourself so you’re aware of it. The third thing you can do is give your time, your energy, your effort into these groups and nonprofits that are doing amazing work out there.”
So while United States independence has become a mainstay for Americans across the nation, Riley Tejcek continues to push what it means to be a patriot. She continues to help communities that are underserved while also providing a role model for the next generation of female military members and athletes.