One of first female Marines leaves behind legacy of service
NEW MILFORD — Veronica “Ronnie” Bradley — one of the first women to serve in the Marines and the subject of a recruitment campaign during World War II — died last week, leaving behind a legacy of service.
Bradley had a stroke and died the evening of Feb. 25. She was 95.
“She always amazed us,” said Bradley’s daughter, Patty Coelho.
Bradley joined the Marines in 1942, just shy of her 20th birthday, making her one of about 25 women selected in New York for the first round of recruitment for the newly formed Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. She was stationed at an air base in Santa Barbara, Calif., where she was assigned to aircraft repair.
A sharp-looking Marine Corps hat worn by a woman in a recruitment poster is what piqued Bradley’s interest and led to her joining the Marines. About a year later, she was surprised to discover a recruitment poster that pictured her.
In the image, she’s standing in front of a warplane in her Marine uniform and hat. The poster reads: “Be a Marine. Free a Marine to fight.”
Large replicas of the image still hang in several museums and it has been reproduced on postcards and other posters. It also appeared in documentaries about the war and women’s role in it.
Coelho said her mother was very humble about her accomplishments with the Marines.
“She never thought it
was as big a deal as it was,” she said.
In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media in November, Bradley said she was proud to serve in the Marines and said it was one of the best decisions she ever made.
“I had a sense of being a good American,” Bradley said.
The Marines plan to honor her with a ceremony later this month, and Bradley’s ashes will be placed at Arlington Cemetery.
Coelho described her mother as someone who would do anything for anyone and cared for her family.
“She was a very kind soul,” she said.
Coelho said her mother instilled this feeling of service in her family, even though she had a difficult life. Before she joined the military, Bradley grew up in an orphanage before eventually living with family.
“I always felt she came into this world alone, but she wasn’t going to go out alone,” she said.
Bradley had six children, 12 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. Bradley’s legacy lives on in the community, as well, with many reaching out after her death.
Among them was Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who tweeted her condolences.
“Cpl. Veronica Byrnes Bradley recently received the WWII Victory Medal & CT Wartime Service Medal in a ceremony with fellow women Marines. Connecticut is grateful for her service during WWII & for setting the stage for women to serve in the military,” Wyman wrote.