‘Women Marines — Proudly Serving 1918-2018’

Elizabeth Howe
August 13, 2018 - 4:53 pm

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

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One hundred years ago, Opha May Johnson enlisted as the first female marine. Today, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va. opened its exhibit celebrating just that — 100 years of female marines.

The Women’s Memorial is the only major national memorial honoring women service members. The various exhibits use artifacts, textiles, documents, images, oral histories and research to tell their stories.

At the special exhibit opening ceremony, an all female marine color guard presented the colors before the program of female marine guest speakers stepped up.

“November 1949 — at lunch I said, ‘I don’t think I’ll be back this afternoon,” said Theresa “Sue” Sousa. While working in D.C. in 1949, Sousa saw a Washington Post recruitment advertisement for the Marine Corps and enlisted in the middle of the work day. That day marked the beginning of Sousa’s 13 years of service and 69 years of work with the Marine Corps.

“When we went through the gates at Parris Island I thought to myself — didn’t say it out loud — ‘Sue, you’ve done a helluva lot of things in your life up to this point, but I think you’ve overstepped your boundaries here,’” Sousa said. “From that point on, I never felt that way again.”

Sousa was the sixth president of the Women Marine Association. Speakers also included Dr. Betty Moseley Brown, the current WMA president, Lt. Gen. Loretta Reynolds, the Marine Corps’s first three-star general in nine years and retired Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, president emeritus of the Women’s Memorial Foundation.

“There’s more to do. Now, women are bringing their skills and talents to the forward edge of the battlefield,” said Reynolds. “I am so proud and grateful for all that came before and all that will come after.”

The ceremony ended, of course, with a ceremonial sword cake cutting.