WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – During the Vietnam War, as more and more men were deployed overseas, many military jobs were left unmanned here at home.
A local Marine was part of a movement that was formed to try to get more women to enlist.
Melissa Tallent, now calls Wichita home, but she was called on by Uncle Sam from her home state of California.
She said the second she stepped into the recruiter’s office she knew the Marines were the branch for her.
“I had no idea what I was getting into really,” Marine Melissa Tallent said.
Tallent would quickly figure out exactly what she had signed up for and she is part of the Marine Corps history.
“We were a girl from every state of the United States,” Tallent said. “They were trying to promote better looking women in the service.”
The women were known as the Governor’s Platoon.
“We all were proud of who we were,” Tallent said.
The idea was to encourage other women to join the ranks.
Tallent said in addition to all of their military duties, they walked in parades in heels and spent a lot of time learning etiquette.
She also gained an important life skill.
“I had a ball driving the Jeep, you know, because I didn’t even know how to drive a car,” Tallent said.
Tallent said although all of the women got major haircuts in boot camp, recruiters then decided longer was better, so many of the women wore wigs.
She also said as the hair got longer, as part of that same movement, their skirts got shorter.
“Once you put that uniform on, you just, you have a lot of respect,” Tallent said.
She said they also had so much respect for their comrades, the women filled roles once occupied by men in supply and logistics.
Tallent said she saw so many troops before they headed to Vietnam.
“I saw a lot of guys leave, and I know a lot them didn’t come back,” Tallent said.
She said those who did make it home were never given the respect they deserved, but she said it was a much different story for women.
“I’d go somewhere with my dad in my dress blues, you know church or something, and everyone wanted to know about my uniform and what I did,” Tallent said.
She said she truly found herself in the service.
Tallent, who was wasn’t sure what she signed up for in the beginning, would climb rank quickly as she became a Corporal in no time.
She went on to marry a Navy sailor and the two instilled a sense of service in their sons.
One son served in the Navy, and the other was a Marine.