QUEENS — Suzanne Bettis joined the military fresh out of high school when she was just 17 years old — the first person from her family to do so.
"The military was going to take me around the world," said Bettis. "I love to travel. I was going to be able to be that rough and tumble girl that likes to rolls in the mud and push myself, and push my body, and push my mind, and the Marine Corps gave me that."
Between 2005 and 2007, Sergeant Bettis did two tours in Iraq where she was part of a unit that retrieved fallen soldiers from the battlefield.
"Someone who gets shot or an IED goes off and they don't make it. We usually go out and retrieve them, their vehicles, their ballistic equipment, bring it back to the base, process it so it can get sent back home to their family," Bettis said.
"It's mind-numbing when you first start and it's very jarring. But after a while you're thinking about the families, you're thinking about them, and you just power through it, you do it."
The experience changed her perspective on life. So when she transitioned back to being a civilian, she wanted to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
"You have to honor their memory and by doing that you come out and try to follow your dreams and be the best version of yourself that you can be, because not doing that is dishonoring their memory," Bettis said.
After leaving the military, Bettis pursued her dream of going to law school, thanks to the GI Bill. Today, she's an Assistant District Attorney in the Queens DA's office.
"I was working with staff sergeants up to generals during my deployment and being able to speak to those individuals helps me to facilitate how I work here in the Queens District Attorney's office."
And this Veteran's Day, Bettis said she'll be marching in America's Parade to keep sharing her story and learning the stories of so many others who will be marching by her side.
"This is not Memorial Day, these are for these living vets that are still here, that are still part of your community. You have to remember us, we bring so much to the table. And we put our lives on the line and we love our country so much that we're able to do that. So don't forget about us because we never forgot about you guys."AlertMe