Service & Sacrifice: Candy bars make a Marine

4:54 PM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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A desire to serve her country and few boxes of Butterfinger candy bars helped Tommye Kelly earn a spot in the Marine Corps in 1943.

"They (the men) were very reluctant to have us in the Marine Corps but once we got there they treated us very well," said Ms. Kelly.

At age 93 she has outlived most of her fellow female Marines. And paging through a scrapbook with their pictures she recalled some the memorable moments of their service together. Among the challenges, they endured boot camp, learned how to use a rifle, and gas mask.

"Mostly it was marching, eating, and studying," said Ms. Kelly. 

Her primary job became teaching Marines to navigate in the skies. It dovetailed with her skills as a budding private pilot. And her passion for flying transferred to the classroom as an instructor.

"This was a time when everybody was serving their country. The entire country was at war," said Ms. Kelly.

After her three years of military service she moved on to nursing school and just before stepping into that job,

"...along came M.J. Kelly," recalled Ms. Kelly. They married, had children, and settled in East Tennessee.

In addition to our on camera interview Ms. Kelly also answered the following 10 questions that offer more perspective on her life both in and out of the military.

1. What one person influenced you most in life?
I'd have to say my mother. She just gave me the rules of living and behaving and I've tried to live up to those things.

2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
Absolutely.

3. How can people thank you for your service?
Oh, there is no need to thank me. I thank God for the privilege of serving this country. Everyone contributed in World War II.

4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
I do in every way that I can. By contributing to some veterans groups like Wound Warriors.

5. How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?
They are planning to use women in combat. I think that is a bad idea. I just can't picture it. It seems unnatural.

6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
It is hard to tell. The one thing that stands out is the ability to do team work. I think that is a very important lesson.

7. Does your family have a history of military service?
No. My father was too old. My brother was in the Navy for a long time during the depression.

8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
Absolutely.

9. How has your opinion of war changed?
My feeling about war is the same as its always been, we ought not to have it. I don't think we had a choice in World War II.

10. How did your military experience shape your faith?
I feel more convinced that there is a God.

 

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