US Air Force officer serves with distinction

Major Marlene Dietrich Heath holds flags representing her heritage before joining the Annual Canarsie Memorial Day Parade.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Major Dietrich Heath is Senator Roxanne Persaud’s 2018 New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame nominee, a military woman who has served with distinction in the United States Air National Guard, while wearing many hats in her long illustrious career.

Caribbean Life caught up with Major Heath, a daughter of Jamaican immigrants, at the Canarsie Annual Memorial Day Parade on May 28 where she was the grand marshall of the age-old march, which she said she was honored to be a part of.

“It is an honor to be in this parade in the community where I grew up and love. I attended Canarsie High school, and it is certainly an an honor to be among my peers, friends, and family in this march,” said the woman in uniform who enlisted in the Air Force Reserved on March 3, 1993 as a mental health specialist, and was commissioned in June 2000 in the Medical Services Corps, as a second lieutenant.

A 25-year veteran, Major Heath said it was the best decision she had made to serve a country that she loves. “I am committed to services for veteran with mental health illness, who are committing suicide at an alarming rate, 20 to 25 a day. This is something that I am passionate about,” said the officer who serves as co-chair for Black Veterans for Social Justice on the Council for the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center. She is also a member of the African American Clergy Elected Officials Coalition.

“The military has laid a foundation for me in both my civilian and military careers. My goal is to always promote a healthy culture, and morale within the organization. Happy people are productive, and loyal to an organization,” she noted.

Major Heath who holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services and an MBA in Business Administration, served as the head of Human Resources for Forest City Ratner Company in Brooklyn, regional hr district manager for Rite Aid, and human resource business partner for the New York City Department of Education.

With so many hats to wear, this intelligent, skilled woman still finds the time to be a mother to two daughters 13, and seven years old, who keep her busy. Her seven-year-old, she said, idolizes the military and tags along with her to many military functions.

“I want my daughters to see there are women like us, who are serving this country proudly, and I encourage them to serve. It is certainly an honor and privilege. It is a very difficult time right now because of so much division in our country. I encourage them to put integrity first in every thing they do,” said Major Heath.

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