two generations of service
© Sarah McCaffery
© SARAH McCAFFERY, Unicorn in Uniform, MCDM, Cohort 12
My mother was a Marine before I was born. Through the years, our path was strewn with obstacles, my father’s passing being the most serious. More chaotic events followed, each individually too much to ask of a single mother of five, all together a cosmic joke of a gauntlet for our family to run. My mother was forthright with us about times in her life when she was overwhelmed and sad, when everything just went wrong, and she told us about her time as a Marine as well — no trace of
Jane (Snyder) Connelley © Sarah McCaffery
The Cohort 12 blog Unicorn in Uniform profiles one amazing woman in uniform each week in the effort shed light on their military life. This heart-felt interview is with Jane (Snyder) Connelley, U.S. Marine Corporal, the author’s mother.
unhappiness tinged those stories. She sang cadence with smiling eyes, reminisced about being the first to salute her sister when she became an officer, and emanated pride whenever her military service came up. I never planned to enlist, but I absorbed the lesson.
Near the end of my senior year in high school, I noticed a box in the cafeteria labeled “U.S. Marines” with sheets to provide contact information. When the recruiter called, I had graduated with no money and no direction; those years of reinforcement pushed me out the door. Because my mother was a Marine, I knew I could handle it. Because I knew I could handle it, my life became exactly the one I want.
What did you do in the military?
Admin. I was a personnel clerk, but served on several research boards, so I didn’t log very many hours in my own Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). My longest running project was on the Nuclear Test Personnel Review (NTPR) board. We compiled data from the medical records of test participants, looking for any correlation between test participation and subsequent incidences of disease. I also served on the Selective Reenlistment Bonus (SRB) board. We were tasked with locating, and paying, all service members that had been underpaid SRB program bonuses. Some of them had been out of the service for decades, and it was a thrill to find them and let them know that they had a large bonus check coming.
What is your strongest memory of your time in the service?
Discovering my own tenacity: On the first day of basic training, I thought I was going to die. Two months later, I ran the Parris Island loop – and didn’t (die). A year later, my first child was born and I fought to stay on active duty – and won (in the 70s, pregnant women were given medical discharges).
Have you ever observed bias or favoritism based on your gender while active duty?
Yes. But it was the 1970s. Women were just beginning to break away from traditional stereotypes. Women Marines were elevated, in the women’s movement, simply by being Marines. Traditionalists, on the other hand, threw insulting labels at us.
Describe one amazing moment from your military career.
There was an old Corps Sergeant Major who wanted to make an example of me when I had my baby. There were no post-pregnancy regulations at the time, but there was a reg that said a Physical Fitness Test couldn’t be scheduled within 30 days of surgery. So he scheduled mine on the 31st day after giving birth. I maxed it. 50 sit-ups in one minute! Hourrah. WMs were cheering, and the Company Executive Officer had tears in her eyes.
What is the most important thing you’d like the reader to understand about women in the military?
That we are a diverse group – and that the labels don’t stick to us.
Do you have a message for the female soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines out there?
Know that most of your limitations are self-imposed.
Want to participate, or know a female service member who’d like to share her experience? Contact Sarah.