There I was; struggling with an old rotten section of painted picket fencing, something my mom and I had gotten for free from one of her “honey holes”. It was stuck to the other 6 pieces it was stacked on, the paint had literally melted together from the heat from a typical July day in Fairhope, Alabama. I was in work clothes sweating but determined to fence off a favorite tree of mine that a 4-month old boxer named Finn seemed determined to rip out of the ground. A sweet voice piped up from behind me asking, “Can I help you with that?” I turned around to see Mrs. Wagoner, my neighbor who my mom had bought our 10 acres from. Still seething from my dilapidated tree, I said “No, I got it.” When the fencing finally came free. Satisfied, I dropped it on the ground and went to give Mrs. Wagoner a hug and explained what a devious puppy I have. It was my first time meeting Mrs. Wagoner but we had both heard a lot about the other through my mom. We have this crazy thing in common:
We are both United States Marines!
As we sat talking, I couldn’t help but notice how unbelievably sharp this woman was. Her sliver car sat in my driveway, with mud all over the tires like she had been off-road (she had to explain to the young man who had just changed them that she lived down a half-mile dirt road). After a couple minutes my mom turned to me and asked, “do you know how old Mrs. Wagoner is?” I shook my head no and looked at the older woman; “Eighty- Six” she answered. My eyes went wide, there was no way! The woman standing in front of me looked twenty years younger than she said. We stood in the driveway and exchanged boot camp stories and the heat didn’t faze her in the least. She told me how she had joined at 21 years old after her sister had talked her into the adventure. They both loaded up and went to MEPS in Montgomery and her sister was turned down from the Marine Corps’ strict height and weight requirements. She went on without her sister to Parris Island and said she stayed in trouble with her Drill Instructors. She couldn’t keep her thoughts to herself and her inspections never seemed to go just right. She even got locked out of her squad bay one afternoon sweeping because she was distracted by the handsome boys in the barracks across the street; “I got in trouble for that one” she remembered. She graduated Boot camp in 1951 and fondly remembered her sister going in after passing the height and weight requirements as she was headed out, knowing all too well what her sister was about to go through.
My mom stood with us and beamed with pride, “Did you know that Mallorie was Molly Marine out of her platoon?” Mrs. Wagoner looked puzzled so I explained the award to her. It started as a way to promote the enlistment of females into the Marine Corps in World War II by erecting a statue of a Woman Marine in uniform in 1943. In 1969 it was made into the Molly Marine Award. I was chosen by my peers in boot camp to be the recruit who, in their eyes, demonstrated the qualities of an exemplary Marine. I was humbled by receiving the award and not one to toot on my own horn but I was so ecstatic to get to have a conversation with a woman who had been an enlisted Marine during The Vietnam War. It is just so incredibly rare. I ran in to grab one of my back-up USMC Flags. I brought it out with a dozen eggs my hens had laid the day before. Man you should’ve seen her face light up when I unfurled that flag. She looked at my mom and I and said, “You have no Idea what this means to me”. All three of us choked up a little as I told her if she ever needed anything I could be across my pasture in 45 seconds. We cleared up our throats with laughter as she got into her little silver car and I turned back to the task at hand: protecting my sad, beat up tree to give it a chance to grow again. I smiled as I got to work digging a hole for my 4×4, today I will always remember fondly, and maybe one day, laugh at my silly hibiscus tree.
Learn more about the Molly Marine Award from our very own Marine Corp Veteran, Mallorie Sain, by calling her cell at 251-395-8955.