Charleroi woman stands tall in service to Marines

Our aunt, the Marine
Lance Cpl. Deana L. Martorella escorts her niece, Kayleigh Jewell, and nephew, Derek Jewell, across the ceremonial grounds following graduation from Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger near Jacksonville, N.C. The 2006 graduate of Charleroi Area High School has decided to make the Marines her career.

By Ron Paglia
Sunday, August 1, 2010

An assignment that brought her back home to Charleroi turned out to be only temporary duty for Lance Cpl. Deana L. Martorella of the U.S. Marine Corps.

“You never know when the call is going to come, so you have to be prepared at all times,” Martorella said.

Martorella, 22, was visiting with her parents, Pete and Laurie Paul Martorella, after completion of Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger near Jacksonville, N.C. She was awaiting the opportunity to attend advanced schooling at Damneck Naval Base near Virginia Beach, when she returned to Charleroi.

“There were no openings (at Damneck), so I was reassigned to work with the Marine recruiter in Belle Vernon for a month or so,” Martorella said. “I was here (in Charleroi) for less than a week when the call came telling me classes were available. Obviously it’s always good to be with my family, but I have been looking forward to going (to Damneck).”

That outlook emphasizes Martorella’s commitment to the Marines.

“I thought about military service even when I was in high school,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to someday work with dolphins and that’s why I majored in marine biology in college. But I kept thinking that I wanted to serve my country and enter the military.”

Martorella, who will turn 23 in September, is a 2006 graduate of Charleroi Area High School, where she played soccer and ran for the track team as a high honors student. She completed two years of study at Waynesburg University before joining the military.

“I was set to enlist in the Air Force,” she said. “But I visited the Marine recruiter and really liked what I heard and saw. I signed the papers and joined the Corps.”

Her parents were more than a little surprised by Martorella’s decision.

“We knew she was interested (in the military), but when she came home and told us she had enlisted in the Marines my first reaction was, ‘You did what!’ ” Laurie Martorella said. “As the parents of five children (four daughters and a son), you always worry about your children — that never ends, no matter how old they are. I was concerned about my little girl leaving home and being at Marine boot camp. But we have always had confidence in Deana’s decisions and support her 100 percent.”

That faith and trust is appreciated by Deana Martorella, who calls her mother “my mentor, the person who has had the biggest impact on my life.”

“I can’t put into words what Mom has meant to me,” she said. “She is my best friend, someone who has always offered sound advice and a shoulder to lean on.”

Martorella began 13 weeks of Marine basic training on March 1 at Parris Island, S.C.

“Once you get adjusted to what seems like unorganized chaos, it’s OK,” she said. “The hardest part was being awakened at 3:35 in the morning by a drill instructor screaming at you. I never regretted one moment of being there. I learned so much about myself and about life — how you have to be ready for anything and reach down into your heart and soul to make the most of any situation.

“You learn to think on your feet, to make decisions that can save your life and, more importantly, the lives of your fellow Marines.””

Martorella was one of 60 women in a training battalion of 275 Marine recruits. Men and women trained in separate groups, although they participated together in “swim qual” sessions. “That involved jumping from a 10-foot high tower into a pool while carrying full gear “backpack, rifle, the works,” she said.

High scores

Martorella posted the highest score among all recruits in her class — men and women included — in the physical fitness competition. She ran three miles in 19 minutes, 50 seconds, well below the required 21 minutes to complete the course; had the best hang time (85 seconds) in an endurance test, and recorded 132 sit-ups in two minutes, well over the mandated 100.

“I think my background in sports helped a lot,” she said. “I have always been accustomed to pushing myself, to do my best in any type of competition.”

Martorella continued making a strong impression during 28 days of Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger.

“It was tough, no question about that,” she said. “We worked with a number of weapons including heavy duty equipment like grenade launchers in addition to our standard issue M16 rifles.

There was a lot of tactical field training, offensive and defensive situations. Again, it was designed to make you think, to learn and be ready for whatever the future might bring.”

Because of her Honor Graduate showing at Parris Island and also at Camp Geiger, Martorella was promoted to lance corporal.

“I’m proud of that,” she said of the advancement in rank. “But you can’t rest on your laurels. It’s a great responsibility placed on you because people’s expectations of you increase. You have to continue proving you’re worthy of what has come your way.”

Family legacy

Martorella is perpetuating a family legacy of military service. Her grandfathers, the late Pete Martorella of Charleroi and Charles Paul of Speers, both served with the Army in World War II.

“I never had the opportunity or privilege of getting to know them, they died before I was born,” Martorella said as her eyes moistened. “But I have heard so many wonderful things about them from other people. I’ve seen their names on the memorials in Charleroi and Speers and I feel I’m blessed in trying to emulate them in serving my country.”

Martorella, who initially enlisted for a five-year hitch with the Marines, is determined to make a career of her service with the Corps for at least 20 years.

Standing 5-3 and weighing only 110 pounds, she epitomizes the meaning of the theory that appearances can be deceiving.

“So many people say to me, ‘You don’t look like a Marine,'” she said. “I’m not sure how to answer them. I mean, what is a Marine supposed to look like?”

Martorello is unwavering in her commitment to duty, even if it would mean being deployed to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or one of the other war zones of the world.

“I’d go today if they wanted me to,” she said. “Sure, we read and hear about all of the political debates about those situations but we’ll leave it to the politicians and the TV people to talk about. I’m ready to go wherever I’m told to go. I’m proud of the U.S. Marines, I’m proud of our nation’s military. I’m proud to be an American.”

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Mary Ann Merritt
WMA National PRO