Veterans are often asked, “Why did you join the military?”
When asked that very question, Amber Markel’s response was one many teens graduating from high school can relate to.
“It’s a fun story,” replied Markel. “I was about 17 and one of my girlfriends in high school said ‘Join the Army Reserve with me, they’ll give you like $500!’ It seemed like a really great deal.”
Markel agreed, and per her father’s one request, she paid a visit to every recruiter from every branch before making a decision.
The Army offered to make her a plumber or heavy machinery operator, while the Navy offered her the position of storekeeper.
And she always wanted to run her own business, so the Navy made the most sense.
“And I’m glad,” stated Markel. ” I didn’t get the $500, but that’s fine!”
Markel started on the USS Shiloh and deployed once on that cruiser.
Markel explained, “The Shiloh was the first cruiser to have full ballistic missile system in it, so we were kind of a big deal at that time. We did a lot of exercises with it outside of Hawaii and Japan.”
Then the USS Chancellorsville, which was in Japan, needed a lot of work.
“They don’t really have the dry docks to do the work there, so we went to Japan,” said Markel. “It took about three months and we did what’s called a hull swap. We left the Shiloh there, brought the Chancellorsville back, got it fixed up and then we deployed with that again.”
Months in the middle of the ocean got to be long and lonely for Markel, especially traveling through different time zones, and dealing with a change in daylight savings time every few days.
“The nights are so dark and you can’t see anything for miles,” Markel recalled, “and you go about that for months, but then you’re just surrounded by people, and the comradery is something unmatched.”
Markel gained some life-long friends from those shipmates, some of whom are a big part of her life to this day.
“Friendships sometimes fade, but not with shipmates,” Markel said.
When in the middle of the ocean, staying connected to friends and family was difficult due to lack of internet, mail, or really any form of communication, but Markel and her shipmates did manage to get mail.
“Maybe once a month a helicopter would bring us a big pallet full of mail,” Markel explained.
And in the midst of the hard work and long days though, Markel and her shipmates did manage to have some fun.
According to folklore tradition, if you’ve never crossed the equator, you are a pollywog, but you can earn your way to become a shellback.
“You get up that morning, you wear your clothes inside out and backwards, and you have like green eggs for breakfast,” Markel said.
And once the obstacle courses were completed, Markel says you earn a certificate for crossing the equator.
“We stopped the ship, and if we wanted to, we could jump off the back because we were over Mariana’s Trench, the deepest part of the ocean,” Markel said.
Markel achieved the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and once honorably discharged, moved back home to North Dakota.
She became a registered nurse, but the yearning to own her own business was still niggling at her.
So 10 years later, she left nursing and decided to do what needed to be done to start her own business, Grime to Shine LLC, which is no surprise for somebody whose senior chief dubbed her ”make it work Markel.”
“That’s what he would tell me if I would moan or groan about something,” explained Markel. “He would just yell ‘make it work Markel!”
From the Navy to nursing, to helping large, busy families and businesses, Markel realized something about herself.
“I must have an inkling for helping people, really,” Markel realized. “I served my country, and I served patients, and now I’m serving the community, and hopefully being helpful.”
Markel’s brother is stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and has one year left. She’s a proud sister and just wants to say she loves him and misses him.