Betty Neuman knew that she wanted to help her country as they fought the Axis powers halfway across the globe.
So she joined the Marines.
The 93-year-old Tracy native – who now calls The Commons at Union Ranch home in Manteca – joined through the “Free a Marine To Fight” program that allowed her to work on-base while the United States sent all of its available men to the European and Pacific Theaters.
And she loved every minute of serving her country.
“I was in charge of sorting the mail in the post office on base, and I took advantage of that – I knew who was writing letters to who, and who shouldn’t have been writing lets to who that were,” she said with a laugh. “And there were so many handsome men in their uniforms.”
Born Betty Ann Vogt and raised in rural Tracy, joining the Marines and ending up in the big city was a bit of a culture shock for the small-town girl – who did her training at Camp Lejune, North Carolina and was eventually posted at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.
But she settled in quickly, and eventually caught the gaze of Eugene John Neuman – a marine. When they completed their service relocated back up to Tracy.
Her new husband was originally a Connecticut native, and once he realized that winters in the majority of California are without snow, she said, he had no desire to go back.
He was one of the men whose letters she handled while working in the post office, and the couple went on to have three children – all of whom served their country honorably.
“He was a Drill Instructor and he looked so great in his uniform,” Neuman said with a laugh. “I knew that I had to talk to him.”
Neuman is just one of 27 veterans who are living at The Commons at Union Ranch – a senior and assisted-living facility located near Del Webb – and will be honored on Friday with an appreciation lunch and ceremony at noon. On top of having somebody to sing the National Anthem, a table will be set up for residents to display their military honors and memorabilia and talk about the time that they spent serving their country.
Neuman is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Tracy, and said that on Veterans Day she and her husband used to always visit the cemetery to honor those who served the country.
Neuman’s father was also a military man, and her sister also enlisted to serve America and its time of greatest need. She said that she chose the program through the Marine Corps rather than the Woman’s Army Corps because the Marine Corps required that the women serving being at least 21 years of age.
She said that the biggest challenge during her time was finding a uniform that fit – she was tall – and that her upbringing was a big reason why she was able to acclimate to a military lifestyle.
“I was raised on rules and regulations, and so when I joined the service that was already instilled in me,” Neuman said. “I’m proud of my service to my country and knowing that my sons followed in the footsteps of their parents and served as well.”
Today Neuman enjoys participating in activities at The Commons, reading mysteries and “whodunit” stories, watching television and being a resting place for her cat, Kali.