Geraldine “Gerri” Snowden Amos is known to be tough, but she is also independent, responsible, easygoing, fair and “the calm in the middle of a storm.”
Amos attributes her inner strength and disposition to her service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Amos joined the Marines on Oct. 10, 1969, soon after she graduated from high school.
“My brother graduated the year before — he went into the Air Force,” she said. “I knew college wasn’t for me and I kept hearing commercials about Marines building men; I wondered what they could do for women.”
The eight weeks of boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, was as tough for women as it was for men. They trained separately but the physical training, marching drills and Marine history classes were the same.
“We (women) also had classes on how to wear and take care of our uniform, and how to wear makeup,” Amos said. “Our lipstick had to match the red on our caps. We had inspections on a daily basis.”
The one thing the women didn’t learn in boot camp in 1969 was to carry weapons, she added.
“When I say (drill instructors), they got in front of you, I mean right to your nose, and we couldn’t blink, not even flinch. It was real structured. (The class) was mostly young girls, about 18. Some didn’t make it.”
Amos learned job skills during her four-week correspondence and administration classes after basic training. Her first duty was at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, as file clerk processing and keeping track of changes on orders. She did the job well enough to earn a meritorious promotion to lance corporal.
In 1970, Amos was sent to Okinawa, where she processed payroll for Marines who had been on the battlefield in Vietnam and hadn’t received their checks.
After her discharge in 1971, Amos married, had a child and went to nursing school to become a licensed practical nurse. While she waited for her nursing license, she attended cosmetology school “to do something.”
In 1974, Amos joined the Air National Guard. By then, Amos was a single mom and missed the camaraderie of the military. She was hired at a veterans hospital and met Walter Amos, who was also employed there. They eventually married.
After 25 years in nursing, Amos now works in medical records at Mercy Community Healthcare.
“I enjoyed the (military) service and would do it again,” she said. “I learned organization, discipline, responsibility, to be obedient and respectful (and) how to withstand a lot and be calm in the middle of a storm. I’m glad for what the military did for me.”
When it reorganized after years of inactivity, Amos joined American Legion Post 215 for the camaraderie and brotherhood she found.