From cheerleader to Marine

April 8, 2023

Melawn Dineen is from a military family, but she never expected to be a Marine.

Her father is retired from the Air Force, and her grandfather is retired from the Army. But Dineen was a high school cheerleader with no plans of joining the military.

However, when she was a 17-year-old student on scholarship at Eastfield, her brother was involved in a serious motorcycle accident after returning from deployment as a Marine in Iraq. When he couldn’t re-enlist, Dineen reconsidered.

head shot of Melawn Dineen
Melawn Dineen (Photo courtesy of Melawn Dineen.)

“Maybe it’s my turn because he can’t go,” she thought.

In September of 2006, at age 19, Dineen made her decision without the knowledge of her family. She walked into the Marines recruiting office in Mesquite and said, “Hey, I think it’s time I joined.”

The recruiter responded jokingly, “The cheerleader?”

“Yes, sir,” Dineen said.

She already had plans for her military career.

“I don’t want to work in the air conditioning,” she said. “I’d like to work on the helicopters that go over my house every day.”

Soon she would find herself working on those very same helicopters, the Boeing Ch-46, as an aviation electronics technician. She was one of six women in a male-dominated unit totaling 287 soldiers.

Today, Dineen is the program lead for Veteran and Military-Connected Services program at Eastfield, which provides resources for students currently enlisted in the military as well as military veterans and their dependents.

Dineen was one of five female veterans who spoke at Eastfield’s “Courageous Conversations: Women in the Military” event on March 21. The panel also featured fellow Marine Jacqueline Shorter and Army veteran Deandrea Montague, who are also program leads, as well as Air Force veteran Jessica Sanchez. It was moderated by VR Small, a Navy veteran and founder and CEO of the Veran Women’s Enterprise Center.

Dineen served five years, but her experience did not come without its share of ups and downs. She met and married her husband during that time, but they were in the same unit and were often pitted against each other.

In 2009 Dineen was preparing for deployment to Iraq when she was told, “they didn’t need any other females for deployment.” Her husband was deployed, while she was given the job of training other Marines for deployment.

Determined to prove how good she was, Dineen posted the best test scores, became the best shooter and reached supervisory status faster than her male counterparts.

When she left the military in 2012, Dineen had PTSD, specifically military sexual trauma. It took her 11 years to bring it to the attention of Veterans Affairs. Then she was directed to a male physician who dismissed the severity of her sexual trauma.

“This delayed my seeking assistance and my emotional healing,” she said. “It was rough.”

Despite her struggles, Dineen said she says she has grown and become better because of her military service.

“That’s why I’m sitting here today.”

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