“We can’t manage this (life) if we’re not disciplined… discipline of every kind is the most important thing you can acquire in life.” Those are wise words from a 91-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who was one of the few women to serve in the Corps during WWII.
Lisa Hawley of Sour Lake, Texas says her military stint was “short in duration” and “limited in scope” but what she did during that time in her life, educated her in ways nothing else could.
The Southeast Texas native says she was a girl with “big dreams, a roaming imagination and an artistic temperament.” Hawley says she actually lied on her application at age 19, to get around the 20-yr-old age limit. The Corps’ reputation as the special-class branch, combined with patriotism generated by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompted her to join, she told the Beaumont Enterprise.
She admits also that joining the Marines was also a way for her to distance herself from an unwanted courtship. Eventually she went on to marry a Marine and move to Hawaii after leaving the service.
As a Marine, Hawley spent most of her time transporting truck shipments of cigarettes from North Carolina to New York, and driving celebrities to and from their performances at her base in California.
During WWII– rather than send women overseas– Marines brought them in to fill stateside jobs such as: radio operator, cook, driver, stenographer and gun instructor. With those new roles being given to women, more men were freed up for combat positions.
According to the Marine Corps, the Women’s Reserve grew to 18,000 during the Second World War.
Now, as the country prepares to open all combat roles in all military branches to women, Hawley says, “I think it’s late, but I think it’s great.”
Retired now in Hardin County, Hawley lives with her dog in a Sour Lake retirement community. Every year she attends an event for disabled Texas veterans, which is hosted by her cousin. Other veterans, from all wars, gather at a local camp ground to share their stories around the camp fire.
When asked why she became a Marine, Hawley responds, “Why do you want to breathe?”
If you’re interested in learning more about female Marines who served during World War II, check out “Free a Marine to Fight Women Marines in World War II” by Colonel Mary V. Stremlow.