Local garden club honors women veterans, Marines
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Members of the Browning Community Garden Club and the Killeen Garden Club gathered on Saturday morning to honor 100 years of women in the United States Marine Corps and recognize two of their own women Marines at the Blue Star Memorial, located on the frontage road of U.S. 190, near the Fort Hood Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.
Commandant MCL William Sterling shared the significance of 2018 and how it relates to the history of women in the Marine Corps.
June 2018 marked 100 years since the Battle of Belleau Woods, where the United States Marine Corps earned their nickname of “Devil Dogs”, while Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Saturday, November 10, marked 243 years for United States Marine Corps, and this year also marked 100 years since women were allowed to serve in the U.S.M.C., with Opha May Johnson enlisting at 40 years old in August 1918 to serve in World War I.
When Johnson joined the Marine Corps, she was one of 305 women who served in WWI. In WWII, the number of women in the Marines grew to more than 20,000. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the number of women in the Corps dropped to approximately 2,500, Sterling said. Currently, there’s an estimated 20,000 or more women in the Marine Corps, filling hundreds of different positions, he added.
“Women fly our airplanes, all of our fighter aircraft, combat helicopters, transport ships,” Sterling said. “Women do everything men do. Today in every common place, women marines serve.”
Sterling explained that women have played a role in war, both abroad and at home.
“You know, war is obviously not a child’s game, and it’s often considered to be a man’s realm. Men go off to war, it’s a man thing, a man’s duty, but we’ve got to admit the fact that war is a man and a woman’s duty,” Sterling said. “It affects every aspect of society and on any, on many battle fronts.”
Wars are fought on the battlefront as well as at home- in the factories, homes and support systems.
“Because when a war is fought, it is often civilizations, it is nations against nations,” Sterling said.
Sterling shared that he thought it was critical to protect the families and keep in mind that families are critical, with women being the most important.
“Men are ones I think best to go to combat,” Sterling said, with a disclaimer of not wanting to sound chauvinistic. “Men go to war, you kill off a few men and society will survive. Send women to war and you kill them off, we go the way of the dinosaurs.”
Sterling shared that in addition to Opha May Johnson, some historians believed that Lucy Brewer could be considered to be the first woman Marine after she posed a man and joined the Marine Corps to fight in the War of 1812.
Kathy Abilez, representing the Killeen Garden Club and Monica Huereque, representing the Browning Community Garden Club, presented members Debbie Burrows and Elaine Passman with a symbolic flag to honor their service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Huereque explained that she had requested through the Senator’s office and the The Capitol Flag Program that two flags be flown over the Capitol in Wahsington D.C., in honor of Burrows and Passman and the 100th anniversary of women in the Marine Corps. The actual flags won’t arrive in Central Texas until several weeks from now, but Huereque said she wanted to recognize the two Veterans now.
Following the presentation of the replica flag, Huereque and Abilez laid the wreath at the memorial.
“Today we stand by a monument to the families who gave their most precious possessions, their children, children into the services which protect out country,” Sterling said. “Today we gather to remember the 100th anniversary of women in the Corps- true veterans, true Marines. And one motto that we occasionally hear and I think it’s very appropriate for today: ‘Women Marines- the fewer, the prouder, women Marines.’”
Following the presentation of the wreath and closing prayer, members of both Garden Clubs spread Bluebonnet and Red Poppy seeds around the Memorial Marker.
The Blue Star Memorial located near U.S. 190 was installed in 1992. The Blue Star Memorial Program honors the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces. Beginning in WWI and gaining popularity in WWII, families of soldiers serving overseas would place a flag with a blue star in their window to show that a family member was serving. Once the soldiers returned home, the program was started by New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs in 1944, with the planting of 8,000 dogwood trees as a living memorial to veterans of WWII. The National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program and began a Blue Star Memorial Highway system covering thousands of miles across all 50 states, with a metal Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker placed in each location.
Texas currently has 92 Blue Star Memorial markers.