Impulsive Decision Leads to the Military and Marriage
Clara Ellington was 19 and impetuous. At the height of WWII, she met and quickly married a young man she soon realized she had little in common with. Clara remembers the day her new husband’s draft papers arrived.
“I went with Louis down to the enlistment office, and then we had lunch at the drug store,” she recalls. “I said, ‘What would you say if I enlisted too?’ but he didn’t believe I would. I don’t think I believed it either, but do you know I walked right across the street and signed myself up. And then I thought, oh boy, what have I done now?”
Any notion Clara may have had about the couple serving alongside one another was quickly squashed. The requisite medical exam revealed a minor health issue that precluded Louis from serving. But Clara had aced her own exam, and would soon ship out as a Marine to Parris Island.
“They told me the day I enlisted — once you join, you can’t un-join,” she said. “That was my first real taste of adulthood.”
She would eventually be stationed at Camp Lejeune as a cook in the mess hall; glorious news for a girl who was unaccustomed to much in the way of exertion.
“Not having to do guard duty was such, such a relief!” she said. “Though, in all honesty, it may have done me some good!”
She left behind everything she knew, and much that was uncertain, including her marriage to Louis. Several months later, after she was good and settled into her new life as a Marine, Louis came to visit. It was to be the start of a second courtship, a much needed do-over that gave Clara and Louis the time and space they needed to discover who they were and what they really wanted out of life.
“I really looked up to my commanding officer, and one day after I’d been at Camp Lejeune about two years, she said to me, ‘Clara, I know exactly what you need to do. You need to leave here and be with Louis and start a family.’ And that’s exactly what I did.”
She never looked back, and she also never regretted that impulsive decision to join the Marines.
“I enjoyed my service,” says Clara. “I didn’t mind the work at all; to feed those men who risked their life for our country made me feel like I was doing something important. But the truth of the matter is, I needed to grow up. It did me, and us, a lot of good.”
on December 5, 2014