Henderson Hall Birthday Ball

MC Ball Speech for H&S BN 16 Nov 2018

 By Rhonda Amtower

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         Thank you Colonel Couch for inviting me to join you and Sgt Major to the Battalion’s celebration of the 243rd birthday of our Corps.  I am very honored to be here tonight to be among fellow Marines to speak about the Commemoration of the “100 Years of women’s service in the Marine Corps.”

          I would also like to thank my husband Jim a retired Navy Veteran for being here with me this evening.  He is proud to be a part of the Navy/Marine Corps team although we continue to get asked by friends on how that relationship works.  J   But he has a standard answer that seems to satisfy everyone…. “As long as I do what she tells me, when she tells me to do it, there is no problem.  All I can say is “good answer”!  

           All Marines no matter where we are around the globe take this opportunity to stop and celebrate the unique history of our Corps. Whether we are still serving on active duty or we are Veteran Marines, we continue to reach out to find the ties that bind us. 

          It is especially fitting to me that I am here today celebrating with the Marines from Henderson Hall’s H&S Battalion since my last duty station was at the Navy Annex. It was here that I retired from active duty service after 25 years in the Corps.  From stepping on the yellow footprints in Parris Island in Jan 1976, to walking into the Bn HQ to process my final retirement papers in Jan 2001, to daily living as a Retired Marine Veteran for the past 18 years, the connections to our history and the camaraderie I shared, never ended nor faded away. 

          I visited Henderson Hall many times after retirement and even worked as a volunteer for a short time in the TAPS office.  While working here I learned of the roll the Battalion played in the history of women in the Marine Corps.   A Headquarters and Service Battalion was organized in March, 1942 to help support the HQMC Marines stationed at the Navy Annex.  Then in July 1943 a second Battalion consisting of the Marine Corps Women Reserves (WR) was established here and soon became the home of the first of more than 2500 Women Reserves serving at HQMC during WWII.

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          After my retirement I found that the our slogan of “Once a Marine Always a Marine” meant more to me than just a slogan, but one that defined me as a person and I used that to continue to keep my connections with my fellow Marines throughout the years.  I needed to somehow keep those ties to my Marine heritage close since it was now an innate part of my very being.

          Fortunately after my retirement in 2001, I found a “Home away from Home” in the Women Marines Association (WMA).  WMA is an organization for all women who have served or are still serving in the Marine Corps.  Its primary mission it is to “preserve and promote the history of women who have served from WWI to the present.” 

We take pride in each other’s accomplishments and how we have all played a part in the overall history of our Corps. 

          This past Sept I was installed as the current National President of WMA when we held our Biennial Convention and Professional Development Symposium which was actually here in this very same hotel.  Attendance numbered nearly 800 to include not only WMA members but active duty Marines from all across the nation, the CMC, SMMC and other distinguished Marines and local dignitaries.  The theme of the Symposium was the Commemoration of the 100 Years of Women in the Corps.   

          A major highlight of the Symposium was having the CMC join us in the dedication of a Memorial Headstone at the grave of Opha May Johnson who was the first woman to enlist in 1918.  

         When I look back at my 25 year career as a Marine I take great pride in my accomplishments and the role I played in our Corps’ history. I look at where women are in our Corps today and see the integrated Marine team that I contributed to.  I see this as a snapshot in time of where we are today.  As this snapshot photo begins to develop, the image depicts the story the picture is meant to tell.

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          I think the best example of this “snapshot” concept is when I served as the Executive Officer of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion in Parris Island back in 1990 to 1992.  

           My office had a window that overlooked the courtyard where recruits would form after chow.  I always likened this window to a time lapse camera where an image would form that would depict the 13 week transformation of a civilian into a Marine.  All adding to the development of the history and future of the Marine Corps.

          From the raw civilian to the polished confident recruit, executing their synchronized march to the cadence of their drill instructors as they marched off for their next training evolution leading to their imminent graduation and becoming a United States Marine. 

This snapshot concept can also be used to look back at our Corps’ history and the contributions we all have made over the last 243 years.  This year, 2018, also marks a special time in history as we commemorate not only 100 years since the “War to end all Wars” ended, the battles Marines fought in Belleau Wood and the Argonne; but also to the contributions that women have made to the Corps since they first served in 1918.

From WWI when 305 women answered the call thru WWII, Korea, Vietnam, to standing beside their fellow Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, today women across the Marine Corps continue to serve their nation with courage, honor and pride.

Being a Marine is not restricted to gender as we are all Marines, serving our Corps with honor and distinction to support Corps values and traditions.  We have all earned the title “Marine” regardless of gender or the era in which we served.  But since the first woman donned a Marine Corps uniform, female Marines have enriched our Corps’ history and enhanced our combat capability. 

So as we join in the celebration of our Corps’ 243rd Birthday we also recognize that women have been a part of this proud history for 100 years.  Since 1918, women have played a crucial role in our Corps’ history.   Our contributions helped to make us an indispensable part of the Marine team.

          The opportunity to serve in the United States Marine Corps is a privilege given only to a few women and men. 

          We all stepped on the yellow footprints and earned the title Marine to make us….. “The Few the Proud”. 


Happy Birthday Marines and Semper Fidelis!

Vivian Bulter DC-1 President, Rhonda Amtower WMA National President, Robin Gallant WMA Area 2 Director