MARION, S.C. – If there is an event going on in the city of Marion, chances are City Councilwoman Tassie Lewis is there in support. She is a little more than a month away from organizing a second winter coat drive for children and working with fellow veterans with activities ahead of the holidays.
Lewis was born and raised in Marion and is serving her first term in office. Prior to that, she served several years in the U.S. Army as a medical specialist.
“I charted and administered immunizations at the baby clinic, worked in orthopedics, radiology, and was able to work directly with the physician,” she said. “At the age of 19, I was able to work in the operating room and it was very challenging.”
Lewis joined the military as the first female in her family that included several veterans.
“My brother was out in Panama at the time, and I went without my mom knowing and called a recruiter,” she said. “I was underweight and had to get a waiver. My life has been about challenges, and I’m used to breaking barriers.”
The challenges were immediate during basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where a 15-mile road march carrying additional medic gear and other physical tests were tough to overcome. Lewis has been deployed to South Korea, Colorado and Kansas. She had to get adjusted to flying, and medical problems were an obstacle before an honorable discharge.
“It helped build the stamina for being able to sacrifice something to get where you want to be in life,” she said. “Basic training was tough for me, because I was a cheerleader and wasn’t used to running and push-ups until then.”
Lewis attended Coker College and felt she wanted to do something that involved leadership. She continues to work in the medical field as a home-care specialist.
“The military played a role, and the more practice I got, the more comfortable I got with it,” she said. “The greatest lesson was to know that nothing happens without sacrifice. I missed my family and had to break through some barriers in regard to rank. I love my country, and I love my family, and it’s a sacrifice to leave for a while. In the military, anything can happen, but I thank God I didn’t serve during combat but was able to give back to my country and my community.”
A simple conversation at Grice’s Recreation led to encouragement to serve in local government.
“It’s been exciting,” she said. “I love what I do, and I love interacting with people and making a difference in the lives of people.”
Lewis is planning to present her second annual Rise Above it All initiative at 11 a.m. on Nov. 16 at the Shannon Wilkerson gym.
“Kids can come in with their tickets and receive a new coat, and they’re not just limited to a coat, but we will have other winter gear at no cost,” she said.
Lewis said she is committed to being at as many events as possible. She also plans to campaign for a second term in office.
“I enjoy the interaction, and I’ve met so many people,” she said. “Sometimes people come to us with things that are not necessarily within my responsibility, but I still try to guide them in the right direction.”
Lewis, a mother of three, said she understands the need, because people are experiencing struggles.
“It’s important that we do everything that we can to help make the difference in the lives of others,” she said. “Accountability is also important. You don’t want just be elected and not supporting the community. I vow not to be the type of representative that doesn’t show up until it's election time. I’m going to be there. “
Lewis remains dedicated to working with fellow local veterans, serving as a spokeswoman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10319 in Marion. Post members recently celebrated the grand opening of their new facility on Senator Gasque Road. Members now have a home for monthly meetings, hosting events and meetings.
“I wanted to make sure they felt the love and appreciation,” she said of the opening of the VFW post. “It’s going well, and we have done a lot as far as giving back to the kids, and we’re hosting a drop-in for children on Dec. 13.”
Lewis said Veterans Day is about love and sacrifice.
“It’s about honoring those that served,” she said. “There are a lot of sacrifices, and it’s life-changing. A lot people are able to serve and get out and impact the community in a positive way, but sometimes the impact can be so devastating. Everybody deserves to be honored and respected.”