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Interview with Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox [March 6, 2006]

Donald Kellett:

___ and the date is March 6th, 2006, and I am conducting an interview in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the VFW for the Veteran's History Project. I would like to start by having our veteran introduce herself with her name, date of birth, where she was born, and what she was doing before she got involved with the service, and how that came about. Okay. Mary, I'll turn it over to you.

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Okay. My name is Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox and I was born in Guadalupe County, a little town ____ New Mexico. I was born on September 21st, 1940. And I before joined -- I joined the military right after I graduated from high school.

Donald Kellett:

Would you want to say what your life was a little bit before you joined the service, what that was like?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Our town was very small and I just thought that I needed a way to get out and see the world. And a bunch of us were sitting down talking one time and we thought, well, maybe join the military. It was during peacetime. It was right after Korea so there was nothing really going on. And I didn't really have the funds to go into college and plus I was also a little bit backward that I didn't have the nerve, so I'm surprised that I did join the military. The recruiters used to travel from Albuquerque to Clayburgh. And somewhere along the way the recruiter got my name, that there was somebody in the little town of Vaughn, which I was when I graduated from high school, in Vaughn, New Mexico, the recruiter heard there was somebody that was interested in joining the military. So he stopped by on his way back to Albuquerque, talked to me, and I signed up and joined the Navy. And I had really thought about joining the Air Force before that time, but the Navy recruiter was the one that talked me into joining the Navy. At that time my mother had to sign for me so I'd have to really talk her into signing the paperwork. I was a few months short of being 18 at the time.

Donald Kellett:

Were there any other people at the time, any of your friends that joined with you or --

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

There was a bunch of us that were talking about it but they were still juniors and I was already a senior when I graduated. And then my next-door neighbor, she had graduated two years ahead of me, and she heard us, that we were thinking about joining, so she joined with me, and we both joined up together. But she ended up not even completing boot camp because they found some stuff in her lungs. She had tuberculosis and she was discharged before she even finished boot camp. But we both joined together, came to Albuquerque, got our physical there, and they put us on my first airplane ride and we went Bainbridge, Maryland for boot camp. This was in September of 1959.

Donald Kellett:

What did you think of Maryland? Was this is the first time you were out of New Mexico?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

This is the first time I had ever been out of New Mexico. I had only been into Albuquerque one time ___ and like I said I was teenager graduating from high school. I remember my first airplane ride. I was looking out the window, it still had the props, and I could see sparks coming out of them, and I thought, oh-oh, it's going to crash. But when we came out into the old airport in Albuquerque, and by the time I came back they had built a new one. I remember looking out into the clouds and we went all the way across the United States, landed in Maryland, which had a lot of trees, which is something we don't have in New Mexico. And we landed -- first of all we landed in Washington D.C. and then we had to catch the train and go on to Bainbridge, Maryland. And I couldn't believe the size of the buildings and all the trees and it was still just the beginning of, of autumn so the weather was nice.

Donald Kellett:

How long did you spend in Maryland?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

The boot camp I think at the time, if I remember correctly, was about, I don't know, roughly two months, two and-a-half months or something like that. But then right after boot camp they, they tested us during the time we were in boot camp, and I scored high on the clerical, so they sent me to yeoman's school which was right there in Bainbridge. So after boot camp I stayed on and just moved from the barracks from boot camp to the school, the yeoman's school, and I continued there until February of 1960, and graduated from Yeoman A School, that's what they called it. And so when I finished boot camp and I finished the yeoman's school then I knew what job I would have in the military which was clerical. Yeoman in the navy are the clerical staff. So I knew what I would be doing when I got to my first duty station. Boot camp was easy enough except for the swimming. In New Mexico the deepest water I had been in was 30 miles away, 39 miles away in Santa Rosa. And I remember just being in water up to my knees. So I knew nothing about swimming. They told us we would have to swim the length of an Olympic-sized pool before we could get out of boot camp. So I had to do some extra training to learn how to swim. And they thought us to do a back stroke because that way I didn't have to put my head in the water. But I did jump off a real high tower and ___ Mae West, and as long as I could bob up and not have to put my head in the water I was okay. But if I had to swim with my head down there's no way I could do that. So they taught us the back stroke and I completed the swimming before I, before I finished boot camp. Boot camp was easy enough. I joined the drill team which was a little bit different from the regular marching that the rest of the group there so we marched in a separate group. We had a chance to go to parades in Baltimore and Lancaster. I remember seeing my first Amish in Lancaster. So during the time that we were in boot camp there was, there was something going on that would take a bunch of the, the way into some of the parades and since I was in the drill team, I was able to do that. The classroom was easy enough for me. I've always enjoyed studying so I didn't have a problem with that. We had to learn like the profile on ships and be able to identify them. For what purpose I don't know, but that's what we had to learn. But the rest of it wasn't hard. I got some demerits in boot camp for talking. You got demerits for almost anything. I remember I had to work those extra time off. And I lost my, my bag one time so I had to work those demerits off. The rest of the time I didn't have any trouble with anything else. One funny thing that did happen in boot camp I remember when they were giving us our clothing, I wear a size 6 shoe, and then they, by the time I got back to my barracks with my pile of clothing, they had given me a pair of size 9 tennis shoes. And I didn't know about it until we were dressing up to go to gym the next day and I had to flop around in big shoes until I could get some smaller ones. That's when they say how they just give you whatever clothing's there, that's correct, they just piled all the clothing in our arms and we just went on and took them back to the barracks, and everybody gets the wrong sizes. I was real small in size. I only weighed about 100 pounds at the time. And one time the man in charge of the barracks came over to check my bed because I didn't even make a big bump on the bed. It was the kind of cot that the mattress went down so she didn't think that I was in there because I was so skinny. I didn't gain a lot of weight. We did a lot of exercising and marching so while I was in boot camp I didn't gain a lot of weight. Some of the other women did but I didn't have a problem with that either. So I sailed right through. And the weather started getting a little bit cold. I'm not used to wet, cold weather, and that's the biggest change that I noticed, when it started getting cold, how cold it can get when you're near the water. And then when we went to yeoman's school all we did was study, study, study the whole time. They just taught you to the different way that the Navy does the paperwork. You have to, even the date was done different. And the paperwork, at that time we didn't have the computer so everything had to be done in triplicate. They showed us how to use the mimeograph machines and they -- so everything that we ever had to do in the office, that's what we did in the yeoman's school. And that lasted until about I think February of 1960 I think. Then I got my orders for Bainbridge, Maryland -- I mean ____ Rhode Island. My niece had been married, married a service person that she met when we were in ____ New Mexico so she got to go -- and he was from the New York, so I got a chance to go see her and have a good time in the big town New York, the big city of New York. She lived in Brooklyn so I was able to see that. So in a short period of time within six -- less than six months I was able to see things that I had never seen in New Mexico before and just saw in the movies, just everything was really different. They talk about cultural shock, which I don't think I had, I just seemed to like just get into the groove of things and continued doing it, enjoying what I was doing. ____ Rhode Island when I got there, right away, like I said, I knew I would be working in the office. And that was near the war college so that's pretty famous with the Navy, the Navy people because they have the war college right there. And our duties were to, to just take care of the personnel records in the naval station. They also had a naval base and sometimes those people would check-in. We had to learn to stand watches and the Navy's good for that, 4:00 to 8:00, 8:00 to 12:00, 12:00 to 4:00 in the morning or _____ so we had to do our turn on that one. The lower class people, that was an E2 when I got out of Yeoman's school, and one of my duties was to make coffee for everybody else. That's where I learned to drink a lot of coffee, in the navy. I studied hard in the navy. Every six months I could go, I could test and try to make the next grade, which was E3, so I was able to make that. A year after that, E4, I was able to do that. And then E5. So by the time I got out of the military I was an E5 in 3 1/2 years, so I thought that was pretty good. I got promoted every time that I was able to. The work wasn't hard. Like I said, I was doing something, clerical work which is probably what I would have done if I had been a civilian. The only difference was you worked ____ and we wore in uniforms and have to do things, you know, the watches and stuff like that. We'd go out and put up a big flag for the holidays, just put up a great big flag. When I got promoted to petty officer, which is an E4, then we were able to move from the, the barracks that we were in to the large, to the, to another barracks for the petty officers and you have a few more privileges. And that's where I met my husband. In the military at that time we didn't have a lot of changes that happened afterwards. Like when we had men guests, they could only stay in the main lobby we had in the barracks. If they had to use the bathroom, then we'd have to go down the hall, check to make sure there were no women in the bathroom so they could use the bathrooms and then they had to come out. They weren't allowed to go up to our rooms or do anything, that was the only area they could go in. We had to sign out at the door. If we came in after 10:00 at night we had to sign in because they would lock the doors and we had to sign in and they'll open the door for you. So it was kind of restricted as far as being able to do a lot of stuff but in a way it was good too. And the petty officer, the same thing happened to the petty officer barracks, they were also, men were not allowed to be on the -- what do you call it -- the lounge areas without dating. And I spent all of my time in Yukera, Rhode Island. I had just put in to get my first transfer and that's when I met my husband. We got married and I never did get to go to Hawaii, that's where I was going to go. The only thing that happened that really stands out in the time that I was in the military in the sixties, that was during Kennedy's time, and they put us on alert during the Cuban Crisis. And that was the closest that I came to being in a war. And after I got out of the military I found out just how close we were. I mean it could have happened and we were right there. And my husband was on a ship that was on the blockade so every time that they went out we would worry about people that we knew that were on the ship. And we were all restricted to the barracks. And we were just waiting until all of that just cooled off. And I'm kind of glad that no big war started during the time I was in. The women nowadays are taught how to shoot and they have a lot of jobs that were not available to women in my time. I don't know if I'd be able to, to learn everything that they're learning. Like I say, you know, I'm kind of, I'd be scared to learn how to shoot a gun. So I wasn't asked to do that and I don't know if I would join the military today because of that. And like I said nothing really out of the ordinary happened while I was in.

Donald Kellett:

When you were on alert how did that change things?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Well, you, like they would -- the officers, the -- would be -- like we would be restricted to a certain area. We would have to be on alert and we would have to report back to our job at a certain time. So we couldn't go off base at all. We were restricted on the base. Of course we ate all the meals and we slept on the base and everything was there but you were restricted, you couldn't leave the base. In case something happened you would be right there.

Donald Kellett:

How long did that alert last?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

The real strict ones, just a few days, and then they kind of slacked off a little bit. But if something would have happened then they would have called in another alert, and then you're restricted to the base in case something would happen. And that, and that was scary, thinking that, you know, something could happen.

Donald Kellett:

When you were at your highest grade -- E4 is that --

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

E5.

Donald Kellett:

E5. What was, what were the main differences between on the steps that you went from, was it E2, is that --

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

E2 is when I come out of yeoman's school. By the time I was E5 there was a civilian, there was -- personnel officers are broken up in the different sections. And the section I was in it was about about, about six women. And then there was a civilian gentleman from, in fact he was from Fall River, Massachusetts I remember, he was in charge of the section as far as the work went, but then anything that had to do with military things that we had to do, by the time I was at E5 I was in charge of that. So I was able to get more duties, assign jobs, assign watches to the list. God, I was only about 22 years old at the time. And so my job was taking care of the military aspect of the jobs that they would, the other people had to do. There were men too in the section, not just women. So when I was E3 I would be taking orders from the person in charge of the section. By the time I was E5, then I had people under me that were in grades lower than I was. And it was just like why don't we just let _____ office taking care of the books, taking care of the books, taking care of the -- not the pay but taking care of just their personnel records, making sure the filing, typing, a lot of typing, and just regular clerical work that we had to do, taking care of the whole naval station. They call it the naval station now but they had different schools. And then the personnel that were working there so we just took care of all their records.

Donald Kellett:

Were you -- did you stay single all the time you were in the service or were you married before you left?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

I, on the day, on the day that we made E5 they had a club on the base they called the Acey-Duce Club, which it would be like Aces and Duces, so it would be like E5 and E6's. Before that you couldn't go into those clubs unless you were an E5 or an E6. So when we made E5, a bunch of us that got that rating went to the club, I met my husband. And then about a year after that I got married. So I was married about a year in the military then I got out. My husband had three children and at the time women could not have dependents when I was in, but since I was going to be a stepmother I could go either way. I could go out as a stepmother, or I could stay in since they were not legally not my dependents. But once you got married you couldn't have children. You could not have children under the age of 18. So I was going to be a stepmother. I knew that I wouldn't be able to work and take care of kids. Some people can do that, some women can, but I knew I couldn't. So my husband and I talked it over and we got married in February of 1963 and then I was discharged in July of 1963 so I could be a stepmother to three children. But now that they've changed, I met a lot of women that have children in the military, were in the military. They have maternity uniforms now that they didn't have when I was in. So there's been a few changes. The uniform didn't change that much when I was in. I've always liked the Navy uniform. The big difference was raising the hem on our skirts because if you remember in the sixties the hems were very, pretty high. But we had to wear ours mid-calf because it was still like in the forties. So we talked and begged and asked them can we raise the hem on our uniforms. They finally let us go mid knee and that's as high, by the time I came out that's as high as they would let us hem our uniform. But then after that I saw girls that had them above the knee but we had to have those restrictions. It wasn't bad wearing the uniform because you always knew what you had to do, you just had to make sure you had a clean shirt. But you didn't have to worry about what you were going to wear the next day. And there's no way now that I could get into my uniform now that was wearing way back then.

Donald Kellett:

Did you, were you able to make, like close friends, women close friends when you were in the service?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

My roommate when I first went to, to Newport she had also gone to yeoman's school. We had met in yeoman's school. And then were able to get a room together at the barracks when we were E3's. And then we both made rates at the same time so by the time we made E4 and we moved to the petty officer beds, we were able to move together. And she was a really close friend. We were -- she was from North Harbor, Massachusetts. And she met her husband, I was her Maid of Honor, went up to ____ and met her family. She married another navy person from -- and he was from Maine. So a bunch of us even went up to Maine to, to meet his family. And so we stayed really good friends until she got, she got pregnant after she got married, so she left the military before I did. Another close friend was also from Massachusetts and I ran into her a few years ago at a Waves convention. But then she was stationed, just after I got married she was stationed someplace else, so I didn't see her too much after that. I haven't, I didn't maintain any relationships with anybody because I got married and then I moved around. And then my husband, it didn't dawn on me that I would lose contact with them and before I knew it I had. So aside from the people that I was friends with at the base, I didn't see anybody after that. I just -- stupid me, I just didn't keep track of them. And I didn't keep their addresses or anything. I'm kind of sorry I didn't.

Donald Kellett:

I was going to ask you too, when you got demerits or whatever it was for things that you didn't do right or whatever, you said you had to work it off; what did you do to work those things off, what was the punishment?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Cleaning detail. We learned how to use a gigantic buffer. Have you ever seen the buffers? They're about 2 feet. You have to raise it up to go or down to go right or left. One of the things we would have to do is like buff like the gym. Or they would make you clean the bathrooms. Or they would make you -- whatever needed to be done. But the main thing I remember is buffing those big old floors in the gym. And that was more to teach us discipline more than anything. That big gym that we used to buff a lot, they showed us in order to follow orders we had to just walk around the perimeter of the -- the offices were all around the perimeter of the inside area. And if you walk in a door and the office you were going to go in was to your immediate left you couldn't make a left. You had to go right and go all the way around. So really it was like teach us discipline, to follow orders. And if we lost something which was our responsibility, or you were caught doing something you weren't supposed to, just to show you discipline. It's a good thing I didn't have very hard details. Just running that buffer that got away from me several times was the hardest thing that I did. They gave us K.P. to work in a kitchen for about a week because that was everybody in boot camp. The only thing I had to do was serve food and that was about it. Like I said I didn't have a lot of hard things to do. I was able to go through three years, ten months in the military, got my good conduct medal so never got into trouble. How I did it, I don't know. I just never had the opportunity I guess. I got my good conduct metal, which I tell the men I'm very proud of it. I only got two medals, that one and the National Defense, but I know a lot of men that never got a good conduct medal.

Donald Kellett:

You're telling me a lot of things here and it's, it's real interesting. So you didn't really travel very much when you were in the service?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

No. In Newport, Rhode Island, and I was going to put in for Hawaii and your tour of duty was roughly three years so if you were only in there for three years you were kind of stuck there. The terms to go into the military, to go into the Navy at the time were two years, three years and four years. Two years I didn't think was enough, three years was about right, four would be two muchso I signed up for three years. After three years I had just re-enlisted when I met my husband and that's when I got out. They didn't make me give the money back since I was getting out for being a stepparent; otherwise, I would have had to pay that money back. So I had, I was into my second enlistment for another three years when I got out.

Donald Kellett:

How long was your husband in there?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

He retired after 21 years. So he stayed in the Navy and then he switched over to the Army. So while he, I did travel around with him but I was out of the military myself. From Newport, Rhode Island we got sent to Texas, ROTC in Texas. And then he decided to -- well, no. After we got married the ship was still out in Newport, Rhode Island so he stayed there another six years. And then he got sent to Texas. Then he switched over to the army. Then he did two years -- two tours in Vietnam, two one-year tours in Vietnam. Port Ustas is about the only place they sent the Army people because he -- he got sent into Camp Pendelton and then he retired after 21 years. So the traveling I did was with him. He was on the ship and every time they would send the ship out it wasn't a change of duty for him, just the ship went out because it was coming back to Newport. So the family, we stayed in Newport when the ship went out six months at a time, two weeks at a time. So I just moved from the barracks into the military housing right there in Newport, Rhode Island.

Donald Kellett:

Did you like traveling, or did that --

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

I enjoyed seeing the different parts of the United States. Some way I knew I would come back to New Mexico. I was gone for 15 years, but when I left I knew I didn't leave forever. I just had that feeling. It just took me 15 years to get back. But I liked the, I liked traveling. I liked history and we were able to go to New England and back east is full of history, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, there's all sorts of military history especially that I was interested in and it's right there so, Washington D.C. I went to see several of the exhibits at the Smithsonian. So I'm glad that we did do the traveling. And like I said the cultural shock, I didn't realize until later on that people would look at me kind of funny. Like we went to Missouri, because I don't blend into people in Missouri, but to me it didn't occur to me that I didn't blend in. I felt comfortable there. I never felt, you know, uncomfortable that I was different. But after talking, after getting to know people and then after talking to people I began to realize that I did, to them looked different. A lot of people think I'm Native American. I didn't know, we haven't never been able to trace any Native American but I kind of, I think back in my ancestry somewhere there is something. So that when people back East see somebody from New Mexico they think it's a strange country anyway, so after they learn you're from there -- but I never felt, you know, that I was in a strange place. To me it was just a place I went to visit and I was going to come back. And Newport, Rhode Island, I never realized there's a lot of Portuguese in New England. So a lot of people thought I was Portuguese, up in that part of the country. In Virginia, the funniest thing I found out was the way they talk, you know, with a southern accent. Texas was a little bit, we were only there six months so I didn't really get to know Texas. In Austin, I was in Austin, I think Austin was like Texas, it's a city all by itself, and it wasn't as big as it is now. So of all the places that we lived, New England I enjoyed because it's so different. The countryside is so different from New Mexico. And I got to go up to Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts. So it's really something to see. You know, being from New Mexico, growing up just learning history. We knew more history about New England than New England knows about New Mexico. For some reason our schooling, we're a poor state, but our history was good as far as teaching us about the rest of the United States. And then I went to another part of the United States and realized they knew nothing about my state, like we didn't exist, like we were different, and I thought that was kind of funny. But like I said I enjoyed it, I did enjoy the travel. I was kind of, when I look back I wonder if I could have made it having three kids and taking care of kids and staying in the military, but no, I think that would have been a little too hard.

Donald Kellett:

Did any of the children get into the service?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Our daughter went into the Air Force. Our oldest son had a heart condition so he couldn't go in. And our youngest son, by the time he graduated, it was a little bit after my husband retired and Vietnam was over with, so he didn't go in. But our daughter, toward the tail end of Vietnam she joined the Air Force. She stayed in four years.

Donald Kellett:

Did she like that?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

She fought it the first few, first couple of years. I think she enjoyed it after, after she didn't fight it so much. And so she came out, she went on to college, got her degree, joined the FBI. Got into the non-women traditional job type, she got into the FBI and so she did pretty good. I think it didn't hurt her. And it would have been better for her if she hadn't fought it so much at the beginning. I think she fought the system a little too much. But the discipline, you have to go along with it. You can't go in there thinking you're going to change the military. If they're teaching you discipline, you just have to go along with it, you can't fight it.

Donald Kellett:

Now I was going to ask you too, when you -- first of all when you were moving to these different bases, did you make new friends, and then you would have to, you could, they would be your friends for months or maybe a few years, and then you had to move on, and then did you like have to meet new friends or did you kind of just stay with your family?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

No, we made friends. Especially the time, if you're talking about after we got married and I was out of the military, no, in the military we lived in Navy housing so everybody's in the same boat. And then with the husbands going out to sea for six months, two months, a month at a time, you kind of depended on your neighbors a lot, so you got to be really good friends. But the bad part is when they moved, you lost those friends, but new ones would come in. You met people through the kids in school. And we were all in the same boat. We would be on the military base, so it like a big military family. Back when the car broke down I could depend on my neighbor to go help me take the car down. And so we made new friends. And like I said there again, we didn't maintain the relationships because you always think that you're going to go back, but you don't. So we made a lot of good friends but we didn't keep track of them after we left. And then they would move on. But I can, I can, you know, just thinking about some of the ones back in Rhode Island in '65, I can still remember their names and where they were from, and they were really good friends at that time. But then you have to move on, and then you make new friends. And so we made new friends every place we went to. Even when Bill was stationed in Austin, he was at the ROTC at the University of Texas, but the people that he worked with were also in the ROTC program -- I mean teaching, so they were military, so it was always military people. We met a few civilians but not that many. Most of the people we associated with were military. And it wasn't hard. The kids I don't think had a problem adjusting to the different schools. Cindy, the one that went to the Air Force, I think she attended 13 different schools by the time she graduated. And she made pretty good grades. The system back East when we took the kids to Rhode Island, I thought that was a good school system there. And they were there about four years, back in grade school. We had one that graduated -- well, two that graduated from Missouri, and then our oldest son graduated in Albuquerque because when they sent my husband to Vietnam, then I came home to stay that one year. Then they sent him back again, so I came back. So we spent two years in New Mexico during the time he was in the military while he was in Vietnam. When he was in the Navy, like I said, we just stayed wherever the home port was. So we made friends, you know, but like I say mostly military. And we always lived in government housing so everybody was in the military, the kids you went to school with and your next-door neighbors were all military. So no, we didn't have any problems making friends. Then we moved back over here and back home to New Mexico.

Donald Kellett:

When you think back to your time in the military, do you remember one or two instances that were really humorous as opposed to like just say the same, doing the same thing all the time? Were there any incidents that you could really recall that that was really different, something that you perhaps really enjoyed or something that was sort of out of the ordinary?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

No. Like I said swimming was the only thing that I can say was hard and just way off that I never thought I could accomplish, and I still don't know how to swim.

Donald Kellett:

But you got a lot of satisfaction out of accomplishing what you did in swimming though, right?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Oh, yes. Just knowing that I could finish yeoman's because like I said a lot of the ones that were not able to swim they would just hold them back another few weeks and they would just have to stay in boot camp, and not go the regular, however long their boot camp was, they'd just have to stay there longer until they passed that. No, I don't remember anything. I remember the trips we made because it was a bunch of us that were going to New York from Newport.

Donald Kellett:

Did you ever get back home occasionally?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Right after boot camp we were given the opportunity to go home before you went to your next duty station. Since my duty station was going to be the school right there in boot camp I stayed there and I didn't come home on leave until I finished yeoman's school and then I came home on leave for two weeks. In the military, I don't know if it's still the same, but at the time you got 30 days a year. And from talking to people that have been in the military a lot, they always said use two weeks and save two, because when you get out you get paid for that. So, so I came home on leave, like I said after Yeoman's school. I was very proud of being in the military. I remember wearing my uniform to church. Being in a little town there's not too many places to go so that was the only place I wore it to. Some of the girls that were still in school were asking me how it was to be in the military. There were some that did join, two or three from our little town after I left. One niece that was about five years behind me in school, she joined the navy also because I had good things to stay about the military at the time. I mean I enjoyed it. The one thing that was really in my favor right from boot camp I went to yeoman's school and right to an office. Some of the ones that did not go to school, they ended up working in the barracks cleaning the barracks right after boot camp, then they had to like find the place where they were going to be working, and I didn't have to go through that. If I had done that part maybe I wouldn't have liked the military as much because I know they weren't very happy. But I was able to get into the kind of job that I would probably do as a civilian, working in an office. Computers weren't in at that time and in order to get up to E6 I would have had to learn how to take dictation, which they don't have that either anymore. So I would have had to have gone to more schooling in order to get up higher than the E5. Being E5 you _____ pretty good. And then after -- so I would come home roughly two weeks out of the year. But like I say I got married three years after I was in. And then I came home, introduced my husband to my family, then we got back and got married and I got out of the military, like I said three years and ten months. I'm just in that gray area which, there were advisers going to Vietnam at the time when I was in, they called them advisers. A lot of the dates don't start until 1964 for Vietnam during the _____ so the people that we, some of the guys that we knew that were being sent to Vietnam, well, some of the Marines that we also met were being called advisers. So I fell into that area just before Vietnam, since I got out in 1963. Some dates I recognize from 1959 because they were getting killed even though they were advisers, but they were, it wasn't recognized as the Vietnam Era until 1964. So in some sense I'm a Vietnam era, and in some I'm not, so just because the date's off. Like you get in the American Legion I can go, because their dates start up 1959. To join the VFW, I cannot join this one because I didn't go overseas. So if I had stayed in longer, Vietnam would have gotten worse, and I would have been right in the middle of it. But like I said I got out in 1963. But then my husband did put in his two years, so I was in one of his years for one of mine. And he was running both every year so it was -- I know the military from the standpoint of being in the military and also of being a spouse _____ they weren't allowing the men to come to United States on his first tour to Vietnam so they were letting us, the spouses go to Hawaii, so I was able to go to Hawaii and meet him there for a week. And then on his second tour they were allowed to come to the United States _____ But the company's were really nice. They gave a lot of discounts to the spouses. And if you wanted to go the airlines, the tickets were discounted ______ be able to save our money and I was able to go to Hawaii and meet him there. But the Vietnam ____ really getting pretty deep. And my husband made it back okay, he didn't get injured. Like I say I've got good things to say about the military. I would, as far as like I said for women, I don't know, the stuff, the jobs that they have now, it would depend a lot on if she thinks she can do it. They've got more opportunities now than they had. Clerical, nursing were about the only things open when I was there. And now almost every single job is open to women. We just had our tribute to Women in the Military Friday, and they go all the way back to World War II. We talked to the World War II ladies and theirs was a little bit different because theirs was also during wartime. And some of the ladies got jobs that they couldn't talk about, secret stuff that they did, a lot of typing. And I belonged to the Waves here in town. They called us the Waves because by the time _____ I went into the regular Navy. The Waves are just during World War II, but they still called the women in the Navy Waves. But by the time I went there it was into the regular navy. The pay wasn't that great, but it's a lot more that I was getting than in that little town I was born in. So I was able to send money home so I guess I was getting paid okay. I didn't drive at the time so I didn't have that expense. So, I don't know, you asked about something humorous, only humorous thing that I can think of if is we went, they used have a Navy Y in Newport where we used to go to the dances, and I was dancing with this one guy one time also and he was telling me that he could always tell a girl that was in the military because they all had fat legs. And like I told you, I only weighed 100 pounds. And I told him well, I'm in the navy, and he didn't believe me because I was skinny. And I said, look, I don't know where you got that information but to me that was kind of funny. But other things that were humorous, I would really have to go back and think. It wasn't like all gloomy but I can't think of anything right now. I'll probably think about it tonite.

Donald Kellett:

Do you feel that in your own experience and not, and including your husband and your relationship there, but just your own service that you had had a real impact, a real difference, made a real difference in your life?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

Like I said I went in, I was kind of backward. Right out of high school I didn't think I would have had the nerve to come to Albuquerque and go to college and earn -- get a job and go to college. The scholarships were not the way they are now. The chances to get, you know, help and there's no way my mother could help me out. So I was from a little town of roughly 1,200 people at the time. There was a lot that I didn't know about in the big world, so I was kind of backward in that sense. I was brave enough to join the military and it made me to the point that I was able to take care of myself. I went all the way across the United States. I didn't get myself into trouble. I had a job. In the back of my mind I kept thinking okay, I've got a job, I've got pay, a place to stay. So all those things were taken out of, you know, I didn't have to worry about them. And I was doing a job that wasn't hard, a job that I was capable of doing. And I found out that I was able to learn. I did get good grades in school, but, you know, beyond that, you know, because of the training that I got in the military, I used my G.I. bill after that to get a business certificate. So it helped me in that sense, you know, that I was able to stand on my own two feet and take care of myself. And this, coming from a small town in those days, like I said, I don't know how I did it, going all the way up to Bainbridge, Maryland when I didn't have enough nerve to come to Albuquerque. I went to, at that time Highland High School had the program for juniors to go to school, go to college and skip your senior year, I could have gone if I could have afforded it. But there again, I couldn't find a way to do that, to afford to go to school, or have the nerve to try it. So I'm really surprised I had the nerve to join the military. Just something drove me to it I guess, and I learned to be very independent, more independent than my husband I think.

Donald Kellett:

Is there anything else that you would want to add here that you can think of?

Mary Trinidad Chavez Cox:

No. One main thing is that the women that have been in the military need to let people know that they were in the military. For some reason, you know somebody and sometimes you know them for a long time and you never realized that they were in the military. Why they don't talk about it, I don't know. People don't know me very long before they find out from me that I was in the military. But I've met a lot of women that have not -- they've left all of that behind for some reason. And I haven't. And that's one thing that I wish, you know, to help out the younger ones coming out off the military now, to be able to share with the older ones. That's very important that they should bring it out, and be proud of their service in the military. That's the only thing I can think of.

Donald Kellett:

Okay. Well, I'd like to thank Mary Cox for all of her information that she gave us here. It's very interesting. And this is, this is going to be a good tape, and Mary will get a copy, and there will be a copy in New Mexico and one in Washington, D.C. Again, I'd like to thank Mary Cox for this interview and we really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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