Always faithful, 70 years later

By Madeleine Marecki

August 2nd, 1943.  It was the wedding anniversary of Dorothy McGhee’s parents, and their daughter had something she wanted to tell them.
She had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps to serve in World War II.
“My mother said that was a lovely present,” Dorothy recalls, speaking in the same tone her mother must have given her at the moment. “She and my father near died when I said I was going. I was their shining light; I was their only child. But they managed.” So, at the age of 30, Dorothy began her 26-month service for her country, and lifelong allegiance to her beloved Marines.
Dorothy, now 101 years old, looks like she’s discovered a secret formula that no one else knows about. Sitting comfortably in the living room of her home – the very house in Millerton, New York where she grew up – Dorothy recounts dates, names, and events as if they happened yesterday. She remembers anxiously awaiting her orders to report to Camp Lejeune for boot camp once the barracks were completed. That time came in October 1943, and she was in for a few challenges.
“We were the first group that went in the barracks in Camp Lejeune, and we didn’t get a royal welcome. No, the Marine cadets did not want us down there,” she says. “Our trainers were Marines, and they were not easy. They were rough. They didn’t want us women in the Marines in the first place, and they didn’t want us down in Camp Lejeune, in their camp.”
Yet, Dorothy drew upon her strength, spirit, and humor to endure. “I remember writing home to my folks and I said, ‘It seems very strange, all my life, I was an only child with my own room. What do you know, now I have 78 roommates,’” she shares with a chuckle. “I tell you, it was rough going, that boot camp. I wondered more than once whatever possessed me to get in such a position. The more I stayed through, the more I liked it. What always amazed me about boot camp was how they shaped us. We were nothing when we came in and in only six weeks time, we were Marines.”
Upon graduation, Dorothy received her orders: she was to report to Eastern Headquarters in Philadelphia. Dorothy headed to the city, where she found the office and position she was assigned awarded an automatic boost to Sergeant. Her days were split between transporting and picking up needed items with the office station wagon, and typing reports from the front to provide the media.
“We typed all day long. We typed all the reports that came in to send out to the papers for the evening. We would have to make as many copies as possible. You pounded those typewriters to try to get as many as you could. All the newspapers and radios would get a copy. That’s the only way they would get any news. What we got was as new as you could get,” she says.
Dorothy’s time in Philadelphia was one steeped with fulfillment and gratitude; her office was tight-knit and dedicated to the cause, and she felt the city itself was a great place for service people. When her term ended in late 1945, she decided to return home.
On December 9, 1945, Dorothy arrived in Millerton. The very next day, her family received a call: her boyfriend was in Poughkeepsie, coming home as well.
“I didn’t even know Malcolm was coming. He was out, and he was coming home from Peleliu. I went out to Poughkeepsie to meet him,” she says. She continues with a smile, “I don’t know what possessed us, but that Christmas, we got married. I never regretted it. It was a good life.”
Reunited, Dorothy and Malcolm settled into civilian life; Dorothy took up a position at the Post Office, where she would work 30 years until her retirement, and her husband, a mechanic during his time as a Navy Seabee, repaired farm machinery. Both, however, were different, according to Dorothy.
“Malcolm got a rough part of the ware. Sometimes I feel guilty,” she admits. “He had it bad. He never talked a lot about it. Now and then, he would say something, and I knew it was rough. You know, it changed him.”
“My mother and father said it changed me, too,” she continues. “It gave me a different outlook on things. I’ve always been glad I went. It did me good.”
Dorothy was recruited by Marine Veteran Nick Gandolfo to AMVETS Post 24 in Torrington, Connecticut, headed by AMVETS Department of
Connecticut Commander, Frank Dlugokinski. She is also a member of the Marine Corps League and the Devil Dogs, and holds a lifetime honorary membership to American Legion Post 178.
Seventy years later, the memories are still fresh, and Dorothy still bleeds scarlet and gold.
“There’s something about being a Marine. It’s something you never forget,” she says. “To do this day, I’m proud of being a Marine.”

Madeleine Marecki is a freelance writer whose father, Thomas, is a Vietnam War veteran and AMVETS member. Her work can be seen at www.madmarecki.com.

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