LOS ANGELES - Before she was Dorothy Zbornak on “The Golden Girls,” Bea Arthur served 30 months in the Marine Corps’ Women’s Reserve, where she worked as a typist and truck driver from 1943 to 1945. In a letter penned by Arthur in 1943, she said “enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so I decided the only thing to do was to join.”
While most people recognize actress Jennifer Marshall from her role as Susan Hargrove (mom to Billy and Maxine) in “Stranger Things,” Jennifer Marshall spent five years serving in the U.S. Navy from the age of 17 until she was 22. Her service included a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and time aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Ironically, when she began her career in Hollywood, casting directors often told her that she didn’t look enough like a vet to land such roles. She's been proving them wrong ever since.
For 30 years, most people who knew Robin Quivers recognized her as the co-host of “The Howard Stern Show,” but before getting her start in radio, Quivers was a nurse in the U.S. Air Force, where she ultimately rose to the rank of captain. The Air Force lists her years of service as 1975-1990 — this includes her time in the reserves, which coincided with her early years as co-host of “The Howard Stern Show.”
Skye P. Marshall
Actress Skye P. Marshall has appeared on highly-successful shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Shameless” and “This Is Us,” and she played Shonda Peterson in the 2018 feature film, “Indivisible,” based on the true story of Army chaplain Darren Turner. Marshall, who describes herself as “Air Force Veteran” in her Instagram bio instead of mentioning her entertainment career, almost joined the Navy. She felt a calling to join the Air Force instead, where served for three years.
“I was in line to swear in with the Navy. I looked across the hallway and saw the Air Force line,” Marshall told Guideposts. “This feeling overcame my body and I’ve always been one to trust my instinct.”
Eileen Collins is a master of shattering stereotypes and achieving remarkable firsts. Before she became NASA’s first female shuttle commander, she became the Air Force’s first female flight instructor at age 23. Collins joined the Air Force in 1978, and she was one of the first four women to go through pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma.
In an interview with TIME, Collins detailed just how crucial her success was to the future of women in the Air Force:
“The Air Force was testing whether women could succeed as military pilots. We obviously were living in a fishbowl—everyone knew who we were, our personal business, our test scores and our flight performance. My philosophy was to be the best pilot I could be—to stay focused, not engage or get involved in social things or anything that wasn’t directly contributing to the mission. It was important for us to excel in training and for the test program to succeed. If the first women did poorly, that could have caused the cancellation of the program.”
Wendy B. Lawrence
Astronaut Wendy B. Lawrence also achieved some remarkable firsts in her career — she was one of the first two female helicopter pilots to make a long helicopter flight over the Indian Ocean as part of a carrier battle group, and she was the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to fly into space. Lawrence graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981 and earned her “Wings of Gold” in 1982.