Born in Baltimore, 1945, she moved at the age of one to Taneytown where she still lives today. She speaks on her experience in the military.
JAMIE ADRIAN: I’m Jamie Adrian. And joining me today is Elaine May. It is November 15, 2011. Thank you for joining us today and sharing your memories. We’re going to start with some background information. Can you tell us where and when you were born?
ELAINE MAY: I was born in Baltimore in 1945, July 22. We– I was born there. But my father wanted us to grow up in the country. So we moved to Carroll County. So I live in Taneytown.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Great. And so you– Do you remember what age you were when you moved to Taneytown?
ELAINE MAY: I was one years old.
JAMIE ADRIAN: And you’ve lived here–
ELAINE MAY: And I lived in Taneytown. It’s always been considered home. Even though after high school I worked for a temporary time in Taneytown. But my goal was I wanted to be in the military. So I joined the marine corp. it happened to be that– that service. And then I left and um, was gone. but Taneytown was kind of always considered home. That’s where your– your roots are.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Mhm. Can you tell me um, who your parents were?
ELAINE MAY: Uh, James and Mary May.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Mhm. And did they work outside of the home? Or–
ELAINE MAY: My mother was a housekeeper. And my father worked in Baltimore. He continued working in Baltimore at Bethlehem Steel Company as a blacksmith. Um, other than that, um, he stayed there and became a carpenter after that and moved out– you know, to come out closer in the country.
JAMIE ADRIAN: What was it like growing up in Carroll County and in Taneytown in particular?
ELAINE MAY: We– I didn’t know anything else. So it was a good life. Um, uh, grew up in the country and had a lot of things to do. And had a pond to go swimming. Had animals.
Most of my friends that lived in town actually would come out to see me. So it was good life you know. Few problems.
JAMIE ADRIAN: What was your neighborhood like? Did you live in a small neighborhood? Did you live out in the country?
ELAINE MAY: Actually lived in the country on a big farm. We had about 90 acres out there.
JAMIE ADRIAN: I bet you had lots of jobs to do.
ELAINE MAY: Had lots of job to do. And we always had a garden. So I always seemed to be working in the garden picking weeds.
JAMIE ADRIAN: And how has that area changed um, over the years?
ELAINE MAY: Taneytown has changed a lot. Um, not exactly the same. When I retired in 1994– I came up here in ’96. Because I was living in Falls Church, Virginia. And um, because I wanted to come home. I wanted to live in the house since my parents were gone. I wanted to live in the house I grew up in. I didn’t want to see anybody else live in it. So it’s been a lot of work and maintenance because it’s an old Victorian 1890’s house.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Wow, that’s– You’ve talked about your military service. What branch did you serve in?
ELAINE MAY: In the United States Marine Corps. And I went to boot camp in September of ’65 and graduated in December of ’65.
JAMIE ADRIAN: What– And did you– how long did you serve?
ELAINE MAY: Well, uh, I got assignment and uh, to Quantico, Virginia. And I was there for about two years. And I ended up getting out of the service only because I knew a Colonel that was going to headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington.
And he says, pursue the civil service route. And I did do that. And I can always remember that was something my father wanted me to do, was work for the government.
Because it’s kind of like a security, a job. You have benefits and all that. So I did that. And then it wasn’t until a few years later someone I went to boot camp with, uh, she says, why don’t you join the Marine Corps Reserve? I did do that in 1974 and stayed with that.
JAMIE ADRIAN: And how long were you in the reserves?
ELAINE MAY: Well, that was many years. I ended up getting 30 years out of it. So I retired after I came back from Iraq in 2003. I had over 30 years. So that’s about the max that we can get.
JAMIE ADRIAN: When you were in the Marines, in the Marine Corps reserves, what were your responsibilities?
ELAINE MAY: Well, I probably did more in the reserves than if I’d have been on active duty somewhere. Uh, I a lot of opportunities to travel. Um, uh, everywhere in Europe. And um, I did a lot of things and up to a Gunnery Sergeant E7.
I was admin, taking care of record books and head of staff. I chose to be a leader of Marines. So I went the first Sergeant route.
Um, and then from First Sergeant to Sergeant Major. And that’s a– they– their responsibilities as a First Sergeant, Sergeant Major, you’re the leader of the Marines, senior Marine, enlisted. And you’re also the first hand man, right hand to the commanding officer. Taking care of issues. Good and bad.
JAMIE ADRIAN: What was like being a female in the service?
ELAINE MAY: Well, you know, we’ve come a long way as women. Uh, I had some issues I had to deal with that many times, as a Sergeant Major or even a First Sergeant, I said, you know, uh, probably if there was a man in these shoes I probably wouldn’t– they wouldn’t be dealing with these issues. But I did. But uh, so it was a lot of endurance. Um, being strong and taking care of the issue.
JAMIE ADRIAN: You had mentioned Iraq to me earlier. Um, is that the only war that you’ve actively been involved with? Or have you been involved with more conflicts, um, such as that?
ELAINE MAY: Mostly Iraq. I’ve been on a lot of exercises over in uh, Denmark, BALTAP headquarters, things of that nature. But in exercises. Uh, um, Vietnam, more women in the Marine Corps did not go to Vietnam. That was mostly Medical Corps and nurses.
So um, I was at Quantico though. It was many hours of working and taking care of a lot of issues because of the Vietnam War. But Iraq, um, we were there. No such thing as a front line. Everywhere.
JAMIE ADRIAN: And how– how did that change you? Being so firsthand involved with something such as Iraq?
ELAINE MAY: Uh, it didn’t actually change me per se. Because you have to keep– you have to keep your focus on why you’re there. And what you were doing and taking care of your Marines.
Making sure everybody gets back alive. and that– I was able to do that. But we had– we had to take care of a lot of things.
And I was with a civil affairs unit. And a civil affairs unit is to go over there and reassess and see how we can– what we need to do to take care of the people. And it was a lot. So we was always doing things.
We had a lot of missions. Like I said, my job was to take care of marines, go visit them wherever they were at and uh, and take care of any of the issues that needed to be taken of. Big responsibility. But I enjoyed it.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Sounds like it. Sounds like it was very important to you. What lessons did you learn from your time in the military?
ELAINE MAY: Um, I guess I would say you know, appreciation– appreciating life. Um, you have a high esteem on– on yourself, who you are, being in the military. Kind of instills a lot of um, good character– characters. um, built into you.
Um, I enjoyed taking care of people. And I enjoyed helping young people and guiding them in any issues that they might have. So um, it didn’t change me. As I learned a lot. It was an education and I felt like that I– that I felt like important in the role I was in.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Good. How does the military continue to be a part of your life now that you’re retired?
ELAINE MAY: Well, it’s a big part of my life. I still keep myself in shape. I feel that um, I still am there to help people. Um, I went back over to Iraq as a contractor with the army, taking care of site– as a site manager for the language program, hiring interpreters. I feel like I learned and continuing to do things that I learned from the military. Which was taking care of people. So–
JAMIE ADRIAN: And how have you been involved in the military or the veterans here in Carroll County since uh, you’ve retired?
ELAINE MAY: I belong to a number of organizations. I belong to a woman Marine Association. I belong to uh, American Legion. I belong to the VFW, the Foreign– Veterans of Foreign War. Um, So I put on a lot of ceremonies. Because that’s what I did as a Sergeant Major.
Uh, and taking care of a lot of issues with the veterans. And people come to me and ask me you know, what I can do. And I usually help.
JAMIE ADRIAN: When you um, left the military and the reserves, um, what sort of career path did you take?
ELAINE MAY: Um, when I left the military I– I did many things. When I worked for the government I was working for the military, Marine Corps. And when I– I continued doing some uh, other jobs after that. Because I was only 48 when I retired.
But I– so I did other things. Because I– I’m a work– work person. Uh, when I retired from the military, like I said, I went back over to Iraq with the Army as a Army contractor to uh, to work with the linguist program, hiring interpreters. So keeping busy.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Yeah, I bet. I bet. Um, what other influences have you had your life besides the military? What other important facts or people have really inspired you?
ELAINE MAY: Inspired me. Well, I have a daughter who definitely inspires me. Because she picked up a lot of my work ethic. So she’s a go getter. And she does a lot of things for the Toys for Tots program. She is a Anne Arundel County um, um, head of the program representative. And she does uh, putting things together and fundraisers and– uh, so I think she– she is– she’s made an impact on my life, how I– how I raised her to be like me. Because she does all the things that care about people.
JAMIE ADRIAN: That’s– that’s wonderful. Very important. Um, is there anything else you want to share with us about your time growing up in Carroll County or your memories of Carroll County or um, your military service and um, being a veteran to this great country?
ELAINE MAY: Um, Carroll County is an– was my life. you know, my– my family was there. And I grew up there.
And I have a lot of friends that I grew up with there. My military life, is something you’ll never forget. And it’s– it will stay with me till– forever. Um, and I guess uh, the people that I’ve met along the way. Because I’ve met many people and have many longtime friends.
Because in the military you have that bond which you will stay with for the rest of your life. So one thing I do have is plenty of friends. So–
JAMIE ADRIAN: Are you able to see a lot of those people that you um– served with?
ELAINE MAY: Keep in touch. We keep in touch. Yeah. And I do go see them. I can go anywhere and there they are. So that’s– that’s kind of– that’s kind of nice.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Mhm. I bet it is. But um, the bond. Well, I appreciate you sharing um, your thoughts with us today. Um, if there’s anything else that you want to share, um, I’m happy to keep this for our future generations to see.
ELAINE MAY: Well, I appreciate that. And I thank you for interviewing me. And I am proud to be an American. And being a veteran.
JAMIE ADRIAN: Thank you.