Proudly donning her decorated dress blues adorned with pins, badges, and other Marine regalia, 98-years-young, former Marine June Fremont of Woodbury, Minnesota garnered some serious – and much-deserved – star power at last summer’s annual Marine Corps birthday bash just outside of Washington, D. C. The self-professed patriot and voting advocate was celebrated for being one of the original female enlistees of the United States’ largest military branch. Find out why she did it and why she encourages women - and men – to sign up and serve.
Fun fact: Women were (finally) legally permitted to join the U. S. Marine Corps over seventy years ago. Being one of the very first females who had the honor of signing up to duly defend and fight for America, we’re saluting this brave, selfless woman who was definitely ahead of her time. “Because of my military service, I have done so many things that I never thought possible,” Fremont tells Minnesota’s Star Tribune. Inspired by her staunch patriotism and burning desire to help her country post wartime, Fremont decided to enlist when she was only 21 years-old and living in Chicago. “I picked it because it was the hardest for a woman to get into,” she continues. “The military taught me to be persistent…And, I became much more aware of the world.” A few years prior, the U. S. had passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, giving women a permanent place in the Marine Corps. By this time, it was 1945 and WWII had just ended. More than 18,000 female Marines had served, including 820 officers. These progressive women had served in primarily non-combat, clerical-type positions.
Musings of a Marine
At the time of her enrollment, Fremont hadn’t a clue what to expect, other than the recollection of stories her father had regaled her with detailing his experiences of serving in WWII. Vividly remembering learning how to judiciously navigate her first obstacle course during boot camp at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina with her first bunkmate – a flashy, high-heeled, fur coat-donning debutante from New York City – Fremont recalls the camp’s unrelenting austerity and the colorful bruises her dainty shoulders sustained for weeks after shooting the formidable Browning Automatic Rifle. The last of the U. S. military branches to open its ranks to willing women, Fremont recounts having to “play it cool” around her lower-ranked male counterparts, so as not to offend them with her higher-ranking Marines status and was often assumed to be a nurse. When sent to Hawaii, she and her fellow female Marines were photographed playfully frolicking in the Pacific and bowling coconuts on the sandy, white beaches while scantily-clad in figure-flaunting swimsuits, “designed” as a PR campaign to attract more women to enlist. However, it was pure PR propaganda. Behind the “endlessly fun, light-hearted” shots depicted in recruitment ads for the Marines, Fremont spent her days entering data in mammoth IBM computers and driving Jeeps around the island for her generals. While stationed at the Pentagon, her duties were relegated to writing up Missing-in-Action reports and Killed-in-Action presidential citations. Fremont says her personal goal was to always learn the specific, individual details of the fallen heroes she wrote about, so she could incorporate these into these generalized form letters in the hopes of personalizing them for the bereaved families.
A Life-loving Lady
The former Marines sweetheart credits many of her life’s biggest and best achievements to the lessons she learned while serving as an impressionable, young woman. It’s also how she met her late husband, Lee Fremont, an Army officer who managed entertainment for the paratroops at Fort Bragg. After the young couple formally left the military, they relocated to St. Paul and started a family. When the youngest of their six children gained some pubescent independence, Fremont starting job hunting. At 50, she was hired to work in the marketing department at 3M and held her position for forty-three years until she retired at the age of 93. Her husband Lee passed in 1988.
Between attending military balls, honor flights, and other military service celebrations, Fremont remains resolutely independent and busy by playing cards with her bridge club, attending family reunions, keeping up with the news, voting, and speaking to middle schoolers about her time in the military and what she learned. “I just love America,” gushes Fremont. “I recommend [the military] to anyone…It meant being a part of the United States. It meant being acknowledged that we women could do more than just sit there like bumps on a pickle.” You GoGirl!
According to the Women Marines Association, nearly 60 of its 3,000 members are 98 years of age or older, including a 102-year-old former female Marine currently residing in Hastings.