Eleven Marine Corps veterans received their World War II Victory Medals Friday, almost 75 years after they served.
The veterans were among the 23,000 women who fought the second world war. When the military rushed to discharge soldiers, it left its female fighters without the victory medals they earned.
“Seventy-five years ago this month, the commandant permitted the women to enlist, and 23,000 women flooded the gates of their offices,” said Women Marine’s Association Area 1 Director Jamie DePaola during her opening remarks.
Shortly after women started serving, one piece of propaganda caught the attention of an otherwise unlikely group of would-be soldiers: the words “Be a Marine, Free a Marine and Fight” surrounded the image of a young woman working on an aircraft.
One of the women who enlisted was Corporal Doris Weiss Dee, who was also one of three veterans accepting her award in person.
“I’m so grateful for everyone that made this day possible for me,” said Weiss Dee.
During WWII, she worked in aviation supply— a manly job, some thought.
“During my training, the drill sergeant did not like women, and he was very, very tough on us,” she said, laughing. “But other than that, we were all treated very well.”
Sitting beside her was Sgt. Julia Lynch Slocum, who remembers how easy it was at the time to let the victory medals to fall off the radar.
“It was a good feeling for everybody to get home, you know?” said Lynch Slocum.
Friday’s ceremony was a message that their work did not go unnoticed, and a celebration of how an image of a woman in wartime now needs no distinction… besides, perhaps, that it started with the third woman accepting her award in person.
Corporal Veronica Byrnes Bradley posed for a photo during WWII, while working as an aircraft mechanic.
“I remember the day that was taken,” she said.
It was the same photo used as propaganda almost 75 years ago.
“I didn’t think anything was going to come of it,” said Bradley. “That was the beginning.”
The other eight Marines honored had family members accept their award on their behalf. Four could not make it in person, and four have since passed away.