Cassandra J. Mullins, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FRANKFORT, Ky. –
Kentucky Army National Guard Major Mitisha Martin was still a small child who
wore pigtails and dresses, the first time she remembers seeing her mother’s
boyfriend slam her mom across the kitchen table.
Her voice cracks
as she reaches back into a dark place of experiences long since locked away,
describing these memories as they flood her – flashes of violence filled with
broken glass and screams. Martin, whose father was murdered when she was just
four years old, remembers being overwhelmed by fear and helplessness, with no
way to defend her mother and no one to turn to.
frightened child is gone. In her place stands a leader who is described by
those who know her as “fierce” and an “inspiration”. While she faced obstacles
from a young age, Mitisha credits the Kentucky Guard for helping her reach her
life-long dream of becoming a dentist, and co-owner of her own dentistry
practice in Louisville. Martin, who has served in the Kentucky Guard for 24
years, is currently in Poland on her second deployment. She is deployed with
her unit, the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company, and is doing what she loves,
working as a dentist.
“Growing up, I
never would have dreamed in a million years that I would be a dentist,” she
said. “I want others to know, they can do it too. Whatever your dream is – no
matter how big it is — you can do it. You just have to be willing to dig in and
fight for it. To never give up.”
“It’s not always easy”
Martin admits when it comes to chasing
dreams, it is not always easy. There is work involved, she said, and achieving
success may not happen overnight. Sher praises her mother for instilling a
drive and determination in her to never give up. As a child, Martin watched her
mother work two jobs at times to make ends meet while raising her and her two
siblings. And, when her mother couldn’t afford lights for their Christmas tree,
she strung up popcorn.
“Mom always found a way to give us
everything we needed,” said Martin. “She was very strong from all the
adversities she had to go through. She’s one of my heroes.”
As a child growing up in Bowling Green, Ky.,
Martin describes herself as a mix between a girlie girl and a tomboy.
“I wanted to climb trees, but I wanted
to wear a dress while doing it,” she said.
In elementary school, her teachers would
ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she always responded by
saying a doctor.
“They would ask me what kind and I had
no idea,” she said. “I just knew I didn’t want to be a nurse like the girls. I
wanted to be a doctor like the boys.”
Martin said camping, firing weapons and
the uniform – were all things that appealed to her and ultimately led to her
joining the Kentucky Army National Guard at the end of her first year in
college at Western Kentucky University. She was 19 years old, entangled in an
unhealthy relationship, and admittedly was not ready.
“My heart and my head were not in the
right place when I went to basic training,” said Martin, who left basic training
after barely a month, receiving a discharge from the military.
She returned home working jobs at local
restaurants and spending long hours in a factory sewing collars on shirts. She
felt defeated. Yet, life has a funny way of placing you were you need to be and
giving second chances, she said.
“A gift from
Maj. Martin describes what happened next
as a gift from God. She said she met a dentist from church, who was also a black
female, and she began working for the dentist as an assistant.
“Seeing her work and how far she had come
and what she was accomplishing was such an inspiration to me,” said Marin. “In
my life, I had never seen a black doctor except on TV, with The Cosby Show.”
Martin said she was also moved and
inspired by the profession itself and how dentists were able to really help
people and change lives.
“You fix people’s teeth and they hug you
and cry because they are so thankful,” she said. “You can see the difference it
makes in people and their confidence and their overall quality of life. Making
that difference is so rewarding. I didn’t find the dental field, it found me.”
“Thank God for second chances,” she
Martin knew right away she wanted to be
a dentist, but that would require finishing her undergraduate degree and going
to dental school—not simple tasks. She also knew she could not afford school on
“That’s when I turned to the Guard and
begged for a second chance,” she said.
Ultimately, Martin was granted a waiver to join the Kentucky Army National Guard again—and this time around, she graduated basic training with honors in the top 10 percent of her class. In addition, she received the highest physical training score of her class and was named Soldier of the cycle.
Upon graduation from basic training, her
first job in the Kentucky Guard was driving Humvees for a transportation unit
in Bowling Green. She served as an enlisted Soldier for 10 years, using
benefits from the Guard to pay for her undergraduate degree from Western
Kentucky University and working her way as a Solider into a medical unit in the
Martin became a commissioned officer upon
acceptance into the University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry. She
utilized benefits from the Guard to help pay for dentistry school. Today she
serves as a dentist for the Kentucky Guard and she owns her own dentistry with
a close friend in Louisville, Kentucky.
“The guard gave me a second chance at
life,” she said. “I don’t think I could have done it without that help. I just
don’t think I could have afforded it.”
Martin said the Kentucky Guard was the
right fit for her over active duty because it allows “the best of both worlds.”
“As a Soldier, we get to give back to
our country and communities—and we also get to enjoy civilian life,” she said.
She hopes her story motivates other
young women across the Commonwealth and beyond.
“I just want girls and young women to
know that women are awesome,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to go out there and do
these things that some may think are generally geared toward men. We are women.
We can do this. We can do anything.”
Martin admits she encountered many struggles
and obstacles on her journey. She said her advice to overcome those is to keep
trying, keep pushing forward. For her, dental school meant long nights of
studying. During the entire program, she was only able to fail and re-do one
class. She said she failed a class during her first semester meaning the rest
of the school she had to pass every single class, which added significant
stress, she said.
“There were a lot of tears along the way,”
she said. “There were times I didn’t know if I could do it, but that’s when I
would reach out to others for help. I have an amazing husband, family and
support system — and a strong prayer relationship with God,” she said adding
that the Kentucky Guard also offers resources and assistance for Soldiers as
they plan their careers.
In addition, in 2015, Martin was deployed to Afghanistan where she assisted in operating an emergency dental clinic. During the deployment, she missed her child’s 16th birthday.
In balancing the obstacles that life
throws along the way, she is quick to praise her husband, whom she refers to as
her best friend, and their children for supporting her throughout the years. She
also says she could not have made it to where she is today without her business
But those who know Mitisha best, say
she’s the inspiration.
“She is so determined with everything
she sets her mind to,” said business partner Dr. Kristin Harris, who has known
Martin since the two attended dental school together in 2004. “I admire her
ability to give 100 percent to every project she starts, and the dedication she
has to both her career and her family equally. That balance can be difficult,
but she seems to carry it with ease.”
With 24 years of service and soon to be
two deployments under her belt, Martin could retire from the Kentucky Guard.
However, she continues to serve the Commonwealth and her country.
“If I got out today, every time I would
see someone in uniform, I would instantly miss it,” she said. “Every time I put
on the uniform I get a sense of pride just putting it on. I’m doing something
worthwhile. That keeps me in.”