A local vet runs
Patchogue Village local Marcelle Leis, known for her work at the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, will be running in the Suffolk County Marathon 5K this weekend.
Leis, who lives in Patchogue Village with her husband, grew up in Bellmore and enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1989 at the age of 21. Her main motivation, she said, was originally for educational benefits, but quickly grew into more.
“After going through basic training in March of 1989 it completely transformed me,” she said. “I left active duty training, came home and knew that this was going to be a career for me.”
She then went on to serve active duty full-time in the National Guard for five years before going to the reserves, where she served a total of 24 years before retiring.
Her military career began in the personnel/administration field until she was appointed to her first leadership role in the Air Force as first sergeant. In that role, she led a unit for four years during 9/11 and a deployment to Kuwait.
Leis made a name for herself and all women in the military. She was the first in her family to make a career of it, her father spent a short time in the Navy post-Korea and her younger brother spent four years in the National Guard.
After much hard work she was promoted again to E8, another administration position, where she served as the human resources advisor in Westhampton Beach. In 2005, she became a chief master sergeant, a senior ranking in security, until she retired in 2013 at the age of 44.
In 2010, while still serving, she began her undergraduate degree in human services at St. Joseph’s College. Now, at 48 years old, Leis has dedicated her life to helping veterans through the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program. In 2013, she graduated and began working for the Dwyer program as its program director.
“My goal is to be an advocate for the veterans’ needs in the community to help them connect with services and promote a positive transition through peer support,” she said. “I really want to be a person that works to change the system and help build programs for transition and reintegration for veterans.”
Since then, Leis has also obtained her master’s degree at St. Joe’s, hoping to provide an even better life after service for local veterans.
In her personal life, she met her husband Peter Leis in the military while stationed on Long Island; they married in 1992 and moved to Patchogue in 1999. The young couple had two kids.
Last year, Leis ran and completed her first half-marathon at the inaugural Suffolk County Marathon.
“I checked it off the bucket list,” she said, admitting to loving fitness, but not being a runner. After hearing about the more obtainable goal of a 5k, she immediately jumped on board ready to support her fellow veterans once again.
“Running last year, I felt such a sense of community,” she said, proud to run again. “Last year my goal was to just cross the finish line. I am going to cross it again.”
Leis can be found on Oct. 30 running in her Joseph P. Dwyer T-shirt in memory of Dwyer and his family.
Like what you have read? Click here to subscribe to the Long Island Advance so you can read more stories like this, and find out everything that’s going on in your town!