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Shannon Ihrke is shown in uniform as a member of the United States Marine Corps. Ihrke was chosen as the model for the May 2014 cover of Maxim magazine. Submitted Photo

Marine turned model lands magazine cover

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Shannon Ihrke grew up in Hackensack and has accomplished challenging feats, including joining the U.S. Marine Corps, becoming an accomplished model in Chicago and landing a magazine's patriotic cover.

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After graduating from Walker-Hackensack-Akeley High School in 2006, Ihrke attended St. Cloud State University for a year and a half. While at college, she became worried about repaying student loans and saw many people struggle to find employment in the dim job market.

So she decided to meet with recruiters from each branch of the military, where she soon discovered the Marine Corps was among the most difficult. Ihrke was also motivated after the recruiter told her she wouldn't last long in the military, that she was "too pretty."

Always ready to take on a challenge, Ihrke joined the Marines and was on active duty for four years and currently is in inactive reserve time. Her favorite part about the Marines was boot camp, because of the challenge it presented.

"I was always very physically fit; I played soccer, basketball and ran track. Overall, I really liked the mental challenge boot camp introduced. The mental part was tougher than the physical aspect for me," said Ihrke.

Modeling was never something she considered, until one day she was helping a friend at a runway show for a benefit and was asked to be one of the models. Afterward, a photographer approached her and asked if she'd come back for photo shoots.

As everything began to fall into place, Ihrke moved to Chicago and began regularly doing photo shoots for various clothing lines. In 2011, someone suggested she enter Maxim's Hometown Hotties contest, in which she became one of the top 100 and was eventually a finalist in the top 10.

At that point, Ihrke decided not to re-enlist in the Marines, but to pursue modeling full time. After living in Chicago for about three months, she signed up for a contest to become "Loop Rock Girl," the spokesmodel for one of the biggest classic rock radio stations in Chicago. She won, which provided her with a full-time job. In 2013, the radio station asked her to become its permanent face, an offer she could not turn down.

While shooting military photos for the "Tribute to the Troops" theme for Maxim for a second time, they told her she had the possibility of being on the cover. Ihrke was the only model at the photo shoot with a background in the military.

By the time the May 2014 issue came out, being on the cover was something she didn't expect. She received a text from a friend who was at an airport saying, "Congrats on getting the cover of Maxim."

The cover features Ihrke giving a solute and wearing a stars and stripes bikini.

"It was the best feeling in the whole world. To think I started at a runway show to help a friend at a benefit, to finding out I was on the cover — I felt like I finally made it. It was amazing," she said.

"I am really glad I did it the way I did. Being in the Marine Corps has opened up a lot of doors for me. The radio station wanted me to stay because of that background, and people automatically have a different kind of respect for you," she said. "I still miss the Marine Corps every single day, but modeling was an amazing opportunity to get out and experience other things."

She's the daughter of Dwight and Doreen Nelson of Hackensack, and Don and Donna Ihrke of Richmond, Minnesota.

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