Forest Grove veteran fought for change through adversity
From serving in the Navy to getting involved in her local community, Jeannine Murrell has strived for one goal: creating change.
Murrell joined the Navy in 1982 after attending California State University, Sacramento, for two years. In light of the country’s economic downturn and her struggle to pay for school by working three jobs, Murrell decided to take a different direction.
“Jobs were stagnant. The country was in an economic malaise,” said Murrell, who now lives in Forest Grove. “I just said ‘screw it’ and joined the Navy.”
She went to basic training in Orlando, where all female recruits would go at the time. While in boot camp, she celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and her 21st birthday.
Murrell’s next stop was a military school in Tennessee, which led to her position as an aviation antisubmarine warfare technician.
As explained by Murrell, her work focused on Lockheed P-3 Orions — aircraft with a primary mission to “seek and destroy submarines.”
Stationed at Moffett Field, Murrell worked on the ground crew to repair the planes and maintain equipment used for surveilling submarines. She also did a tour overseas, stationed at Diego Garcia — a remote island in the Indian Ocean — to “patrol the seas.”
Murrell recalled how she had to work graveyard shifts while overseas. She was the only member of her shop that worked from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. She was responsible for preparing the plane for the aircrews to patrol throughout the day.
The military also brought on challenges for Murrell in light of the prominent gender discrimination at the time. She remembers she had to put in more effort than her male counterparts and found limitations in where she could go in the military. Women were not allowed to be on active military deployment ships at the time.
“The drill instructors were very straightforward: ‘You are a female in a man’s Navy, you will have to do 125 percent to be considered doing 80 percent,’” Murrell said. “The discrimination was inherent in those days, but it wasn’t unique to the military.”
Despite her uphill battle, her time in the service also shaped her perspective on tackling adversity and helped her move forward.
“If you’re a person that feels marginalized in any aspect, but you have the skill set and determination, then it provides you an opportunity to be part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” Murrell said. “You can grow into your self-worth. You can grow into your skill set. You can grow into your confidence.”
Murrell chose not to re-enlist in 1986, finishing her time in the Navy with the rank of petty officer second class. Getting a job in sales, she eventually moved to Oregon in 1989 and found her longtime career in insurance. For more than 20 years, she has had a Farmers Insurance agency in Cornelius.
“It’s very rewarding because, much like the military, you’re helping people to understand their options and how to mitigate loss,” she explained.
Murrell also has taken on various roles in the local community. She served as a Cornelius city councilor, although she has since moved to Forest Grove and has taken on leadership positions at her church. She has been active in the Rotary Club of Forest Grove since 2003 and will serve as the district governor representing Northern Oregon next year.
In light of all her involvement, Murrell said the binding thread has been her drive to make a difference. Just like her efforts in the military, she said she is focused on working toward change for a greater cause.
“You’re there to serve and give to your community — these are some underpinning moral and ethical values that we need to continue to foster and nurture in our younger generations,” she said. “The payoff is bigger than you can imagine. It’s all intangible.”