By Ed Brock

On Veterans Day Etta Montroy of Forest Park may not do much.

Her children might take the 86-year-old former petty officer in the Navy's Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service out for dinner. And she'll remember her time of service during World War II, and today's vets including the women in combat now in Iraq.

"I think they're in there doing the best they can," Montroy said. "People should know what they're doing. They're giving their lives."

In 1943, Montroy was a young woman in her early 20s who was working in Akron, Ohio when she decided to join the military.

"They picked us up in Cincinnati and took us in (to the boot camp at Hunter College in the Bronx, N.Y.)," Montroy said.

She remembered the boot camp mainly for its temperature.

"It was cold, cold," Montroy said, looking over a picture of her with her fellow recruits.

Created in 1942, the WAVES were part of the Navy's reserves and some of them filled administrative duties including processing paperwork for top-secret projects, serving as medical technicians and as telephones and radio operators. At the peak of the program there were 86,000 WAVES, 4,000 of whom served overseas.

Montroy spent World War II supervising a barracks full of her fellow WAVES in Norfolk, Va.

It may not have been the most dangerous and exciting duty, but it allowed her to meet her husband, Marine Sgt. Ernie Montroy, a man who fought in just about every major engagement in the Pacific Theater.

"He was in Guadalcanal, one of the first warriors to go in," Montroy said.

She met him, actually, by mistake. Thinking he was another Marine who she had not met in person but with whom she was supposed to catch a ride with into town with, Montroy ran out into the rain and was halfway in the sergeant's car before she realized her mistake. She hesitated in the doorway.

"He said, ?Are you afraid?'" Montroy said. "And I said ?What, of a Marine?'"

In 1946 Montroy was discharged from the WAVES and a short time later Ernie Montroy joined her in civilian life. They were married in Grand Bay, Michigan and moved around the country some before coming to the home on Long Leaf Drive where she has lived since 1942.

Ernie Montroy died of a heart attack in 1982. Etta Montroy has health problems of her own, but the Veterans Administration takes good care of her, she said.

"I think they should do all they can for (veterans), the ones who are being discharged now and the older ones," Montroy said.

On Wednesday some other Marines and Marine veterans gathered to celebrate the corps' 229th birthday.

Whether fresh out of the Corps or a veteran of a World War, whether a United States Marine or a British Royal Marine, a marine is a marine, bound by an unending camaraderie.

Celebrating the U.S. Marine Corps' birthday, a room full of marines, both young and old, swapped stories and bonded at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6330 in Jonesboro.

Richard Sadler, a British Marine, modestly recounted helping clear the way during the D-Day invasion of World War II. Alongside forces from America and Canada, the marine blew up a seawall, allowing allied forces to land.

"This guy is a legend," fellow marine Ed Swanson said, calling him the "epitome of the Marine Corps."

With today's division, it's important to recognize the unity of the Corps, Swanson said.

That same unity keeps Leland Edwards, 79, and Lacy Huie, 80, returning to celebrate the Corps's birthday. Both served in Iwo Jima during World War II.

"Once a marine, always a marine," Huie said.

Geoff Fulton, a Morrow accountant, served four years in the Marine Corps, including a stint in Desert Storm. His brother, also a marine, is fighting in Fallujah.

Honor, integrity, sense of purpose, Fulton said. That is what being a marine means, although, he added, it's difficult to put into words exactly what it means to be a marine.

"There's just a sense of pride," Fulton said. "It's more than a job well done. It's a life well lived."

Staff writer Greg Gelpi contributed to this story.