WWII-era Marine veteran celebrates 99th birthday

The U.S. Marine Corps was established on Nov. 10, 1775, in the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.

Almost 146 years later to the day, Mary Del Vecchio was born in Minneapolis, Minn.

Both monumental events were celebrated by Marines, family members, and VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System staff at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center Nov.10, 2020.

“It’s so nice to celebrate today with fellow Marines,” said Del Vecchio. “To this day, I still have so many fond memories of my time with the Marine Corps and it’s great to spend the day with other Marines.

Del Vecchio, 99, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943 and served as one of the first members of the Women Marines Reserve until the end of the war in 1945. She filled many roles as a Marine during World War II, including clerical work, nursing, and even driving a truck while her male counterparts were deployed to Europe and the Pacific. “The men had a lot of nicknames for us,” Del Vecchio said, “but secretly, they were proud of us.”

Several Marine veterans and VASNHS staff members paid tribute to Del Vecchio with a cake, honorary flag display and a challenge coin. “She was there in the beginning and paved the way for female Marines like me,” said VASNHS Chief of Prosthetics and fellow Marine Veteran Deb Bolda. “She opened doors to a lot of opportunities for those who followed in her footsteps.”

Following the war, Del Vecchio used her GI Bill to attend St. Katherine’s University, where she earned degrees in sociology and psychology and a Master’s Degree from University of Minnesota. She later married, had seven children, and now lives in Las Vegas.

More than 20,000 women Marines served in World War II, in over 225 different specialties, filling 85 percent of the enlisted jobs at Headquarters Marine Corps and comprising one-half to two-thirds of the permanent personnel at major Marine Corps posts. “For a lot of young woman, this opened the doors for us to be able to travel, serve our country, and earn a college degree,” Del Vecchio said. “It was a glorious opportunity.”


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