AUGUSTA — A century after women were first allowed to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps, Maine women who count themselves among the few and the proud may soon have their own organization.

On Saturday, almost a dozen women who served in the Marine Corps gathered at Margaritas in Augusta to share stories, eat tacos and cake, and learn about the resources available to them. They came from sundry corners of the state, including Portland, Bangor and Rumford.

The event was partly organized by the Women Marines Association, a national organization that has several active chapters in the northeast, but none in the Pine Tree State.

At the end of the meeting, a Rumford woman who served in the Marine Corps said she is spearheading an effort to start a chapter for Maine women.

“Women need to know we’re out there for them,” said Joy Bordeau, 55, who was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina during her service in the mid-1980s. She spent that time computerizing supply systems and serving as a “chaser” — an escort for service members who were accused of breaking the law and had to appear in military court.

Bordeau, who also is involved with the American Legion, particularly hopes the group can be a resource to female veterans who are having trouble finding housing, health care or other essential services.


Given that those women were Marines — a group traditionally recognized for its steely grit — they may be unaccustomed to asking for help, Bordeau said.

There were 110 homeless veterans in Maine at the start of 2018, according to the Maine Homeless Veteran Action Committee, a coalition of state and nonprofit groups.

While attendance at the Saturday event was lower than organizers had hoped, it also gave service members of different generations a chance to bond about their shared experiences.

In her eight years of active duty, Mary Swanson, 26, rose to the rank of sergeant while working as an ammunition technician and administrator for three different battalions in North Carolina, California and Japan.

She first enlisted at the age of 17 and now is studying biology at the University of Southern Maine while also working in that college’s office of veterans services.

She’s also the president of the Husky Veterans Student Group, a chapter of a national organization, and said she hopes “to bridge the gap” between younger and older veterans.


As some groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars struggle to recruit younger members, it may take a fresh approach to reach them.

“It’s getting into the community and getting my face out there,” Swanson said of the get-together on Saturday.

At the same time, older veterans can also benefit from those sort of interactions. After growing up in Mississippi, Yvonne Baldwin, 54, joined the U.S. Marine Corps. She served from 1982 to 1993, working as a cook and eventually becoming a sergeant. Afterwards, she settled in Bangor.

When her husband died in 2016, Baldwin entered a depression. But early this year, she started working at the Lowe’s home improvement store in Bangor after hearing that they were recruiting veterans.

She did so, she said, on the encouragement of another veteran, Joy Asuncion, who also helped organize the get-together on Saturday. Since then, Baldwin has enjoyed reconnecting with a group of people she largely lost touch with when her service ended.

“I thanked Joy for getting me off my butt and out of my depression,” Baldwin said. “I’m a widow, and I need to get up and get involved.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

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