Tag Archives: Marine Corps

Star of Queens: Suzanne Bettis, assistant district attorney, Iraq veteran


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

star of queens

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

BACKGROUND: Suzanne Bettis was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the U.S. in ’97. She joined the Marine Corps when she was 17, because she wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself. She did two tours in Iraq as part of the unit that searched for and found troops who died on duty, processed their effects and sent them home to their families. She left the Marines in 2010, studied law at the New York Law School and now works in the office of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. Since August, she has made Woodhaven her home.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: When she was a law school student, she set up an association that helped veterans and their dependents navigate the red tape of the Veterans Affairs department and get access to the benefits available to them. Now she is involved with the community falling under the 103rd Precinct. Every month, she attends the community council meeting to work closely with the community and the cops and reduce instances of gangs and gun violence. This year, she’ll be participating in the Veterans’ Day Parade.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “I feel like I am not done yet,” said Bettis. “I could go to law school because of the benefits from Veterans Affairs. That’s why when I was at school I focused on how veterans and their dependents can maximize the VA benefits. There are lots of veterans coming home now, and they should be able to use them to the best advantage. Also, many veterans can lose their benefits if they are convicted of criminal charges. At the DA’s office, we try to give them a second chance.” If they reform, for example, the charges against them are dismissed.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Getting acclimatized to being home,” said Bettis. “Military people are closed up. I am learning to interact with more people, ease myself year by year to trust people and hope they don’t look at me as a threat. There are so many misconceptions about why people join the military. We are all not killers. I just want to be understood. In the military, we don’t have the luxury of being fallible. Turning that off when you get home is tough.”

INSPIRATION: “I have a lot of people to thank,” said Bettis, “but especially those men and women we had to send back home in boxes. At 18, 19, 20, they are willing to sacrifice their lives for people they’ll never meet. Everyone I processed, searched for, dug out of still burning Humvees, are special people to put themselves in that position, knowing you’ll never get the opportunity to go to school, get married, have a family life. Their story has to live on. Every day I come to work, interact with someone, this is the community they were protecting. And I have to continue doing that.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Students at Howard Beach’s P.S./M.S. 207 celebrate ‘kindness’ with Toys for Tots


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Howard Beach’s P.S./M.S. 207 is getting into the spirit of giving this holiday season.

Marine Corps Sergeants Mike Roy and Miguel Villalobos brought the Toys for Tots donation program to the 88th Street school on Friday.

“A lot of [kids] don’t even know about the program,” Villalobos said. “Doing a little outreach opens their minds.”

In conjunction with the Marine Corps and the Howard Beach Kiwanis Club, P.S. 207 will be collecting toys under its Christmas tree until Wednesday, December 18.

“This community was so devastated after Sandy. They [the students] know what it’s like to lose everything,” said Melissa Martin, P.S. 207 guidance counselor. “Yes, we have come back and rebuilt, but so many people haven’t.”

The sergeants not only brought the toy-giving program to the school, but also addressed the monthly virtue of kindness.

“If you have a lot to give, don’t be afraid to give to someone who doesn’t have anything,” Villalobos said. “They’re going to go from having nothing to just having that coat, that Barbie.”

Each month, a select group of eight middle school students are recognized for enacting the month’s virtue. At the Marine Corps assembly, 6th through 8th graders were selected for showing November’s virtue, perseverance.

Jonathan Durso, a 7th grader, said he “studied hard” and did his best, and was recognized for his achievements.

“I tried my best with grades and homework, and I made sure I got everything in on time,” said Alessia Basone, also a 7th grade winner.

Martin said the virtues “teach kids character development,” and the newly-introduced theme of kindness, paired with Toys for Tots, is intended to promote giving to those less fortunate.

“It starts them off early with the idea that it’s good to give,” Roy said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES