“I am a Marine, not was of former. I wear that title proudly because not everyone can be one. Marines are a special breed and we are proud. We were taught to honor yourself and the Corps every day,” explained Sgt. Dorothy “Dottie” McPherson during our first encounter.

Prior to becoming a Marine, McPherson graduated with the Mountain Valley High School Class of 1995. She served from 1995 to 1999 as an active duty Marine and then for the next four years as inactive.

Sgt. McPherson said, “For those of you that don’t know, when you sign a contract say for four years its actually for eight years — four active service and four inactive service.”

During that her time as an active duty Marine, Sgt. McPherson blazed the way for other women and made the world a better place though her humanitarian missions.

She was one of the first women in the Marine Corps to enlist with a combat military occupational specialty (MOS).

“My job was a Combat Engineer,” Sgt. McPherson explained. “As Combat Engineers, our responsibilities included vertical construction and demolition (carpentry, mason work, and concrete work) and explosives (C4, Bangalore torpedo’s, claymores, land mines, and land mine sweeping). An engineer’s job at war was to go in before the infantry (ground troops and convoys) and clear any obstacles, whether it was barb wire, a wall, a door, or a mine field. As engineers, we also had mobile bridges that we used in certain cases where a convoy or supplies were needed but a waterway was impassable.”

She was stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC for her entire enlistment after basic training.

However, she deployed every year on humanitarian efforts or for training.

Sgt. McPherson recounted, “I have travelled all over the U.S., including a mission in Arizona on the border of Mexico. We reconstructed the road with major washouts from the massive rains received in a 40-mile section on the border road. The roads were impassable for the border patrol vehicles. Therefore, this section of road was difficult to patrol for illegal immigrants crossing unless it was fixed in a timely fashion.”

“My unit also deployed to Petite Martinique (Island of Grenada) on a humanitarian effort,” she continued. “We built a Coast Guard station from the ground up, refurbished an existing school, built two full-sized basketball courts for the kids and cleaned up and provided fresh drinking water for the locals.”

Lest the reader think Marines only work in warmer climates, another story will destroy that myth.

“My last year, I deployed to Norway for three months on a cold weather exercise with the Norwegian Army. I was responsible for ten marines and one sailor in a remote post in Svarva, Norway. It was my responsibility to direct the convoy from Oslo to Svarva, set up a defensive position to ensure we were not infiltrated at anytime and direct the construction of our camp. As leader, I was in charge of ensuring the post was secure at all times, daily cold weather training of my Marines and scheduling of supplies to be brought up from Oslo weekly. Amidst all of this, ensuring Marines were kept in shape, with daily physical training which could be challenging due to the climate.”

For McPherson, life in the Marines was not all engineering work. She played softball.

She said, “I had the privilege of being a part of the All-Marine softball team for two years. I travelled to Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, GA, where softball camp was held; to Fort Collins, CO; and to Pensacola, FL for the All-Armed Forces tournaments.”

Her experience, skills and knowledge led to recognition by the Corps. As a corporal, the rank before sergeant, she was selected, along with 500 other women, to be considered for Woman Marine of the Year honors.

Sgt. McPherson said, “The Marines were selected by their current leaders. They must have perfect physical fitness test scores of 300, be an expert on the rifle range, and have an exemplary service record. A Marine must be proficient in their MOS, drill and Marine Corps customs and courtesies. I finished in the top five, for which I received a Navy Achievement Medal (NAM).”

Like many service members, she wanted to carry on a family tradition, but with an added challenge.

“My motivation in joining the Marine Corps was wanting to serve my country as my brother and my dad did in the Army,” Sgt. McPherson explained. “I looked up to their service and wanted to be like them.”

Then with a smile, she continued, “Not so much like them and join the Army. I wanted a challenge! I wanted to learn the proud traditions of the Marine Corps and I knew in my heart the Marine Corps was for me.”

In accepting the challenge of being a Marine, McPherson learned a lot lessons and skill that have helped her as a civilian employee.

She said, “The Marine Corps taught me many things that have transferred to my jobs along the way and they are multi-tasking, patience, organization, effective leadership, pride, being strong willed, confidence and the intestinal fortitude to never give up. It has taught to me to improvise, adapt and overcome.”

NewPage has benefited from those lessons and skills. When she returned to the area, she accepted a position as a security guard and moved on from there.

“I have since taken jobs within the mill as a shift supervisor in the shipping department and currently as a maintenance, repairs and operations (MRO) buyer in purchasing,” Sgt. McPherson said.

Sgt. McPherson is the daughter of Angie McPherson of Dixfield and Daniel McPherson, an army veteran from Rumford Point. She has three brothers — Ed McPherson of Rumford, Dan “Fred” McPherson of Andover and Kevin McPherson of Hartford. Kevin is also an army veteran. Her sister is Sonya Thibodeau of Rumford.

Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful).

This is the 21st in a series about graduates from Mountain Valley High School who are serving our country in the military.

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