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SALUTING PULASKI COUNTY’S VETERANS

(Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of stories spotlighting Pulaski County’s military veterans.)

FAIRLAWN — During World War II, as many of the men in this country marched off to war, they relied on their wives and sweethearts to “keep the home fires burning.”
Many women even entered the work force in the absence of these men to fill empty jobs that were necessary for the survival of our nation.
Glenna Richards Weddle, however, chose the road less traveled by the women of that era when she joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943.
Weddle had grown up in West Virginia. Two of her brothers, both of whom were younger than her, had already joined the U.S. Navy. One had even been at Pearl Harbor (and fortunately remained unharmed) when it was bombed by Japanese forces in 1941. Once the war was over, all three made it back home to West Virginia.
“What caught my eye was a picture of a woman marine in the window at the recruiting office in Welch, W.Va.,” Weddle said. “I went in and talked to a recruiter. He gave me the papers, and I signed up. I just wanted to do it, and I felt like it was something that needed to be done.”
Weddle was sworn in in Pittsburgh, Penn., on June 8, 1943, after making the trip there from West Virginia by bus. By Aug. 15, she was at Camp Lejeune, N.C., for boot camp.
“That was a pretty miserable experience,” Weddle said. “It was hot down there, especially in August. And, plus, my smallpox shot almost did me in.”
Cpl. Weddle completed her basic training toward the end of September and was soon given orders to report to the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, N.J., for parachute packing school, which was a three-month course.
Weddle noted that when the course ended, it was Dec. 23, so they received 10-day delayed orders so that they could go home for Christmas.
While stationed in New Jersey, Weddle also had the opportunity to visit New York City.
While visiting the “Big Apple,” Weddle said she went to the Pennsylvania Hotel to see Tommy Dorsey’s band perform.
“He sat and talked with us for ages and just turned his band over to somebody else,” Weddle said. “I even still have a menu that he signed for me.”
Overall, Weddle said, “I think Lakehurst was one of my best duties.” She added with a laugh, “it was like being in high school,” but she noted they still had to keep up their calisthenics and inspections, “just like at any other base.”
Weddle said the women stationed at Lakehurst had separate barracks from the men and ate in their own mess hall.
On Jan. 1, 1944, Weddle had orders to report to Cherry Point Marine Air Station in North Carolina.
“I hated every minute of it,” she said. “The morale was low there, and they put us on mess duty for six weeks. Corporals were not supposed to be put on mess duty. They told us that we’d be on there until the new ‘boots’ came in from Lejeune, but the new boots came in and shipped out, and we were still on mess duty.”
However, once that duty ended, Weddle worked in the base’s library.
In the meantime, Weddle’s best friend, Millie, had an uncle who was a captain in the Marine Corps in San Diego, so she started corresponding with him so he could use his connections to get her and Weddle orders to go to the West Coast.
Luckily, in April, Weddle left Cherry Point on a troop train headed to the West Coast, which she noted was the largest contingent of women marines on any movement.
After about five days and four nights, they reached Los Angeles, traveled by bus to San Diego, and then ultimately to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
“I’ll never forget my first view of the Pacific Ocean,” Weddle said. “Here I was, coming from the coal fields of West Virginia, and I just thought California was paradise.”
Weddle explained that Miramar was a de-embarkation point where men came to go overseas and where they returned from overseas. She was stationed there from April of 1944 until June 1945.
“That was really good duty,” Weddle said. “A lot of my buddies I had met at Lakehurst were also at Miramar.”
When Weddle wasn’t on duty at Miramar, she visited Los Angeles and went to the Hollywood Canteen and NBC and CBS studios, saw some of the radio shows, and saw numerous celebrities.
She noted that at the Hollywood Canteen, women in uniform were not allowed to go out on the dance floor to dance.
“They wanted the men to dance with the celebrities, so we just had to sit and watch,” she said.
Weddle also visited Tijuana, Mexico, while stationed at Miramar, where she saw her first bull fight.
“I hated every minute of that,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I kept pulling for the bull.”
As for when she was on duty at Miramar, Weddle worked in the base’s tailor shop, because the Marines had trained too many parachute packers. At the tailor shop, men brought their uniforms in to be altered or had patches sewn on, Weddle said.
“The work was hard, but you felt like you were doing something worthwhile,” Weddle said. “In fact, the man I replaced at Miramar was able to go overseas, so I felt like I had freed up a man to fight.”
In June 1945, Weddle was assigned to El Centro Marine Air Station, located in California’s Imperial Valley, basically set in the middle of the desert.
There, Weddle worked in the tailor shop and at the post exchange.
Weddle was discharged from the Marine Corps on Nov. 30, 1945.
As for her fellow Marines, Weddle said, “I met a lot of nice young men and even almost got married after the war. I never had a Marine who ever got out of order. They were all perfect gentleman because I respected myself, and, therefore, I was respected.”
Overall, she said her experience as a Marine is “something I wouldn’t have missed for a million dollars.”
Weddle noted once she returned home from her service, she was able to take advantage of the GI Bill and attend business school.
“They even paid for my pencils,” she said.
In 1953, Glenna became Mrs. John Weddle. John was a military veteran himself, having served in the U.S. Army during World War II as a first lieutenant infantry paratrooper. Together, they lived in the Fairlawn area with their two sons and one daughter.
Weddle worked in mental health for about eight years at St. Albans psychiatric hospital and for a guidance center on the Radford University campus. From 1963 until 1975, she worked as an executive secretary for the Selective Service, first in Radford, then in Christiansburg. In 1975, she returned to St. Albans, where she worked part-time.
Several years ago, one of Weddle’s sons, who lives in Maryland, took her to visit the World War II Memorial.
“It was a wonderful day,” she said. “People thanked me for my service. I wore my uniform, and several young girls wanted to have their picture made with me.”
In 1997, Weddle also attended the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Dedication Day.
“That was another wonderful day,” she said. “There were about 30,000 people there, and Vice-President Gore and his wife were there, along with Sandra Day O’Connor, other chief staff members, and even Kenny Rogers, who sang a song for us.”
Today, Weddle, 85, can still fit into her uniform and wears it every chance she gets. She said this past Memorial Day, she even wore her uniform to church services at Fairlawn Baptist, which she has attended since around 1953.

SALUTING PULASKI COUNTY’S VETERANS

(Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of stories spotlighting Pulaski County’s military veterans.)

FAIRLAWN — During World War II, as many of the men in this country marched off to war, they relied on their wives and sweethearts to “keep the home fires burning.”
Many women even entered the work force in the absence of these men to fill empty jobs that were necessary for the survival of our nation.
Glenna Richards Weddle, however, chose the road less traveled by the women of that era when she joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943.
Weddle had grown up in West Virginia. Two of her brothers, both of whom were younger than her, had already joined the U.S. Navy. One had even been at Pearl Harbor (and fortunately remained unharmed) when it was bombed by Japanese forces in 1941. Once the war was over, all three made it back home to West Virginia.
“What caught my eye was a picture of a woman marine in the window at the recruiting office in Welch, W.Va.,” Weddle said. “I went in and talked to a recruiter. He gave me the papers, and I signed up. I just wanted to do it, and I felt like it was something that needed to be done.”
Weddle was sworn in in Pittsburgh, Penn., on June 8, 1943, after making the trip there from West Virginia by bus. By Aug. 15, she was at Camp Lejeune, N.C., for boot camp.
“That was a pretty miserable experience,” Weddle said. “It was hot down there, especially in August. And, plus, my smallpox shot almost did me in.”
Cpl. Weddle completed her basic training toward the end of September and was soon given orders to report to the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, N.J., for parachute packing school, which was a three-month course.
Weddle noted that when the course ended, it was Dec. 23, so they received 10-day delayed orders so that they could go home for Christmas.
While stationed in New Jersey, Weddle also had the opportunity to visit New York City.
While visiting the “Big Apple,” Weddle said she went to the Pennsylvania Hotel to see Tommy Dorsey’s band perform.
“He sat and talked with us for ages and just turned his band over to somebody else,” Weddle said. “I even still have a menu that he signed for me.”
Overall, Weddle said, “I think Lakehurst was one of my best duties.” She added with a laugh, “it was like being in high school,” but she noted they still had to keep up their calisthenics and inspections, “just like at any other base.”
Weddle said the women stationed at Lakehurst had separate barracks from the men and ate in their own mess hall.
On Jan. 1, 1944, Weddle had orders to report to Cherry Point Marine Air Station in North Carolina.
“I hated every minute of it,” she said. “The morale was low there, and they put us on mess duty for six weeks. Corporals were not supposed to be put on mess duty. They told us that we’d be on there until the new ‘boots’ came in from Lejeune, but the new boots came in and shipped out, and we were still on mess duty.”
However, once that duty ended, Weddle worked in the base’s library.
In the meantime, Weddle’s best friend, Millie, had an uncle who was a captain in the Marine Corps in San Diego, so she started corresponding with him so he could use his connections to get her and Weddle orders to go to the West Coast.
Luckily, in April, Weddle left Cherry Point on a troop train headed to the West Coast, which she noted was the largest contingent of women marines on any movement.
After about five days and four nights, they reached Los Angeles, traveled by bus to San Diego, and then ultimately to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
“I’ll never forget my first view of the Pacific Ocean,” Weddle said. “Here I was, coming from the coal fields of West Virginia, and I just thought California was paradise.”
Weddle explained that Miramar was a de-embarkation point where men came to go overseas and where they returned from overseas. She was stationed there from April of 1944 until June 1945.
“That was really good duty,” Weddle said. “A lot of my buddies I had met at Lakehurst were also at Miramar.”
When Weddle wasn’t on duty at Miramar, she visited Los Angeles and went to the Hollywood Canteen and NBC and CBS studios, saw some of the radio shows, and saw numerous celebrities.
She noted that at the Hollywood Canteen, women in uniform were not allowed to go out on the dance floor to dance.
“They wanted the men to dance with the celebrities, so we just had to sit and watch,” she said.
Weddle also visited Tijuana, Mexico, while stationed at Miramar, where she saw her first bull fight.
“I hated every minute of that,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I kept pulling for the bull.”
As for when she was on duty at Miramar, Weddle worked in the base’s tailor shop, because the Marines had trained too many parachute packers. At the tailor shop, men brought their uniforms in to be altered or had patches sewn on, Weddle said.
“The work was hard, but you felt like you were doing something worthwhile,” Weddle said. “In fact, the man I replaced at Miramar was able to go overseas, so I felt like I had freed up a man to fight.”
In June 1945, Weddle was assigned to El Centro Marine Air Station, located in California’s Imperial Valley, basically set in the middle of the desert.
There, Weddle worked in the tailor shop and at the post exchange.
Weddle was discharged from the Marine Corps on Nov. 30, 1945.
As for her fellow Marines, Weddle said, “I met a lot of nice young men and even almost got married after the war. I never had a Marine who ever got out of order. They were all perfect gentleman because I respected myself, and, therefore, I was respected.”
Overall, she said her experience as a Marine is “something I wouldn’t have missed for a million dollars.”
Weddle noted once she returned home from her service, she was able to take advantage of the GI Bill and attend business school.
“They even paid for my pencils,” she said.
In 1953, Glenna became Mrs. John Weddle. John was a military veteran himself, having served in the U.S. Army during World War II as a first lieutenant infantry paratrooper. Together, they lived in the Fairlawn area with their two sons and one daughter.
Weddle worked in mental health for about eight years at St. Albans psychiatric hospital and for a guidance center on the Radford University campus. From 1963 until 1975, she worked as an executive secretary for the Selective Service, first in Radford, then in Christiansburg. In 1975, she returned to St. Albans, where she worked part-time.
Several years ago, one of Weddle’s sons, who lives in Maryland, took her to visit the World War II Memorial.
“It was a wonderful day,” she said. “People thanked me for my service. I wore my uniform, and several young girls wanted to have their picture made with me.”
In 1997, Weddle also attended the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Dedication Day.
“That was another wonderful day,” she said. “There were about 30,000 people there, and Vice-President Gore and his wife were there, along with Sandra Day O’Connor, other chief staff members, and even Kenny Rogers, who sang a song for us.”
Today, Weddle, 85, can still fit into her uniform and wears it every chance she gets. She said this past Memorial Day, she even wore her uniform to church services at Fairlawn Baptist, which she has attended since around 1953.