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Cpl. Marlena Cartagena, chief dispatcher, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, hopes to get her nursing degree to help those in need. Cartagena also volunteers her time to help people who are less fortunate. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores

What I’ve Learned: Marlena Cartagena

1 Dec 2016 | Lance Cpl. Dave Flores Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

> I grew up in Salem, N.C., with my mother in the early years of my life. When I was still pretty young, I decided to move in with my father for more stability in my life.

> Moving in with him was better for me. Since he was strict, he helped me do well in school and led me toward the right path.

> My father was a flight nurse and my step-mother was also a nurse, which is why I would like to pursue nursing myself when I get older. Watching them care for people really opened my eyes to wanting to do the same thing.

> I was pretty active in school with lacrosse and [Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.] I will never forget when one of my instructors told me, “Don’t let life’s little things get to you.” I abide by that philosophy today in the Marine Corps and with anything else I do.

> I joined the Corps because I feel like everyone should take the time to serve their country. To be defended by our armed services means that you should want to take the time to do it yourself.

> I feel a lot of pride serving my country, especially in the Marine Corps.

> What I liked about being a motor vehicle operator was that we are essential to the unit’s mission. Getting the necessary materials and always having a line for transport is what made me proud of what I did.

> After going to a secondary military occupation school for refueler’s course, my job is to refuel all of the aircraft that come onto the landing strip. It’s pretty different from my last job, but it’s still something I enjoy.
> We have very busy schedules as chief dispatchers, especially when there is an [Integrated Training Exercise] and pilots are coming back from their flights during all hours of the day.

> When I’m not in uniform, I love to travel to new places in California. We live relatively close to everything so if I don’t have work on the weekend, I try to go somewhere new and exciting.

> I would consider myself a person of the arts. I like photography, poetry and even scrapbooking. Poetry has become a huge part of my life. It’s an outlet for me whether I’m sad or happy.

> I would like to stay in the Marine Corps and take full advantage of all the things it has to offer.

> I want to start working on my nursing degree while I’m still in the military. I haven’t decided yet what type of nurse I will be, but I’m leaning toward working with children.

> Something I wrote that I try to live by is, choose the path of most resistance, your destiny is inevitable. It means to never take the easy way out of things, and always be willing to challenge and push yourself. At the end of a lifetime, we all have the same result and you do not want a life filled with the easy way.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms