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Why I Serve: Striving to Advance

By Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEJEUNE, Dec. 14, 2004 – "I didn't want to go to college right after high school, but the longer I stay in the Marines where I'm around professional people, the more I want to learn and strive for advancement," said Marine Pfc. Tameka Hill.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Pfc. Tameka Hill said that "owning the title of Marine is very coveted." She is scheduled to deploy to Iraq soon.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Baltimore native is a wireman and telephone troubleshooter for 2nd Marine Division here. Hill is the line of communication for the officers during battle, where her duties are to set up and maintain "comms" between buildings or tents in a command post.

The 19-year-old will take her skills to Operation Iraqi Freedom early next year. She anticipates that the experience in Iraq will be something that will take her to a new level of professionalism.

Hill worked as a telemarketer during high school with little room for advancement and no money for college. Little did she know that Uncle Sam had a need for those very skills.

"At Randallstown High School I had a problem with authority and a big mouth," said Hill. "Already, I've learned to control myself and listen to the people around me, because, of course, you'll get into serious trouble in the Marine Corps. But also because listening and being more disciplined has helped me to succeed and it's made me a better person on the whole."

When she went to Parris Island Recruit Depot, S.C., to enter boot camp, she distinctly remembered getting off the bus and standing on the infamous yellow foot prints where recruits line up in their first formation. "There was just too much confusion," said Hill. "I thought to myself; 'Oh my God. I don't believe I'm actually doing this.'"

Despite her fears, she made it and has an attitude that will help her conquer almost any obstacle.

The oldest of three children, Hill says she helped to raise her brother and sister, which helped give her an appreciation for nurturing. She said she plans on using her Montgomery G.I. Bill money to go to college to become a pediatric nurse. She adds that her Marine experience will give her an upper hand when she heads for higher education.

But for now, she is looking forward to being part of the action in Iraq and doing the best job possible.

"Owning the title of Marine is very coveted," said Hill. "And no matter what I do from now on, I'll always have that."

(Marine Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio is a combat correspondent with the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.)

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