‘We can do it’ — Marjorie Wright

Published 1:07 am Sunday, April 20, 2008

Never one to shy away from what was considered at the time “men’s work”, Marjorie Wright was ready to fulfill her duty in the military when the time came for her to serve.

After Pearl Harbor, when a lot of men were lost, the military needed to free up more men for combat. Men were sitting behind desks doing work that women could do so the auxiliary to the army was formed — Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp, WAAC.

“After we had been there so many months they decided we were doing a pretty good job and they decided to keep us. They took out the auxiliary part and we became the Women’s Army Corp, WAC,” said Wright.

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“We had to be 21, the women did, to enlist,” she said. Wright enlisted in December of 1942, but did not leave for basic training until January of 1943.

For her basic training she was sent to Des Moines, Iowa. During that time Wright had a lot of experiences that were brand new to her — the first being the weather. “I came out of New Orleans in 80 degree temperatures and got off a train in Des Moines in two feet of snow,” she said.

The uniform was a khaki shirt, tie, jacket and SKIRT. Even in skirts, the women had to do the same basic training as the men. They did all of the same physical exercise, marches, parading, KP duty and even wore gas masks and went through the gas chambers. They did, however, train in separate camps from the men.

After four weeks of basic training, the women were sent to different schools. “I went to Army Administration School in a little town called Commerce in Texas,” said Wright. Then she was assigned to the Air Force Classification Center in Nashville, Tenn. and attended secretarial school.

Wright spent time in both Jackson and Dothan, Ala. at Napier Field working in the Headquarters Mail Classification Distribution Centers. At Dothan, approximately two years into her service, Wright made Staff Sergeant and received a letter of commendation for her service.

Wright talked about the experiences that affected her the most. “This was a big change for a poor country girl that had grown up through the great depression,” she said. She explained that communications were not the same as they are today. There was a lot more restrictions on things like the mail. Wright was one of six children and four of them were serving in the military at the same time. She thought it must have been very hard on her parents to have so many children away, not being able to hear from them, not knowing where they were stationed.

She remained in Dothan until it was time for her to go home. On Thanksgiving Day, 1945, at Fort Sam in Houston, Texas, Wright was discharged and returned home to Angie, La. in Washington Parish.

Not long after her discharge, Wright decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill. She moved to Baton Rouge, La., and went to business college. “The G.I. Bill paid all the expenses for that,” she said. After school, she got a job and bought her own house with the help of a G.I. Loan. She lived and worked in Baton Rouge for several years.

Wright eventually sold her Baton Rouge home and moved back to the country. Soon after she met her future husband, who was also a WWII vet. “My daddy told me about a single father of two boys whose children needed a ride to Sunday School. It wasn’t long before their daddy started going to Sunday School and church with us — we ended up getting married,” she said.

In 1968, Wright’s husband moved her to the 43 acre farm in Picayune where she currently resides. Active in her new community she worked with the Republican party and befriended and worked with Trent Lott for a number of years. She did 20 years of volunteer work at what used to be Picayune Convalescent Home. She still meets up with fellow volunteers once a month for the fellowship and lunch.

She feels her home in Picayune has been a blessing to her family. “It was a home to our children and their friends, and then our grandchildren and their friends — it’s been a home place for a lot of them,” she said.