Wednesday, June 1, 2011

There’s no such thing as an EX-Marine.

Once a Marine, always a Marine. There are no ex-Marines, only former Marines.

I am a former Marine. I joined the Marine Corps out of high school to play in the bands. I’m proud to claim the title.

I was in Platoon 2B, L Company, Women Recruit Training Command, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC, for basic training. I arrived on October 18th, 1983, at oh-dark-thirty in the morning. By mid-morning I was burning up because I’d worn a turtleneck and an all-wool sweater. Luckily, I got to trade them in for camouflage utilities and combat boots by the late afternoon.

It was an experience. Nothing much like I’d expected. It was hard but never beyond my capabilities. You don’t think of basic training as a lot of time in classrooms, with notebooks and tests, but that’s what a lot of it was. Of course, there was the rifle range, physical training, marching, and all the great stuff that goes with boot camp. Every minute of every day (and night) was dedicated to training. No wasted time. Literally.

And, boy, did they ever emphasize “acting like ladies” all the time. Along with classes on rifles and gas masks, we had etiquette and poise classes and makeup classes. We were required to wear lipstick and eye shadow every day during basic training, mind our manners, sit up straight, and represent the Corps as ladies. We spent more time ironing our uniforms than we did cleaning our rifles. That isn’t the case now. Women go through the same training the men do from start to finish. No more checking for fresh lipstick.

You think I’m kidding. Not so. We really did have to wear makeup in basic training. The colors they gave us were atrocious. They really complimented the black cat-eye glasses. We were something to see.

I’ve been to some really cool places. I marched in the 1984 Tournament of Roses Parade. I lived in Hawaii for 3 years. I was stationed in southern California for 15 months. I liked it there. There is so much to do there.

I’ve learned not to bring it up when I first meet people. People won’t talk to me anymore if I mention being a former Marine. I wait until they get to know me first. A few HR people have accused me of lying about it. “You just don’t look like you could have been in the Marine Corps.” Do they think I faked the DD-214 (discharge papers)? Do they think you have to be 6 feet tall and built like an oak tree to be in the Corps?

Being a former Marine colors my attitudes. I have different concepts of professionalism and pride. I have more patience for some things but less for others. It’s an important part of who I am. The few, the proud, the Women Marines.

Semper Fi.

Check out for the history of women in the Marine Corps and other cool stuff.

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