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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Carol Pollock

Carol Pollock's name on a blue background with red stars

Carol Pollock's Photos

Black and white portrait of Carol Pollock in military dress
Portrait of group of female marines
Framed collage of photos of Carol's service
Black and white photo of Carol looking at reel of film
Carol shaking hands with a gentleman receiving an award
Carol in uniform receiving an award
Color photo of Carol standing next to a large fish
Antique poster of a female marine that says,

Carol Pollock's Story

Carol Pollock was born in Mankato, Minnesota, on October 10, 1939, and moved to Texas when she was six years old. Her parents were hard-working farmers who provided well for the family by growing hay, oats, wheat, rye, sorghum, strawberries, cabbage, green beans, and tomatoes. They had a pair of strong work horses, a dozen milk cows, and eight pigs. They would trade a pig for half-a-cow each year with cattle farmers to have beef. Carol, the youngest of four children, comes from a proud patriotic family. She has a sister thirteen years older than her, and two brothers, one who served in the Navy and another who served as a Merchant Marine. As the baby sister, she jokes that she didn’t walk until she was three years old, because she was carried everywhere.

Before enlisting in the military, Carol graduated from college with a double major in commercial arts and secondary education. When in school and completing her practice teaching, Carol taught in a reform school. During this time a fight among students resulted in a stabbing. While reflecting on the challenges of teaching, Carol saw a sign posted on campus about Officer Training School for the Marines and made a decision to enroll. She graduated this program with the rank of 2nd lieutenant.

While in training her group was strictly disciplined by drill sergeants who called them “ladies” in a mean derogatory way. There was a lot of yelling and marching around, and Carol had to learn how to handle weapons and was taught how to use a .45 pistol and M-16. As a trainee, all superiors had to be addressed as “Sir!” Once the cadets transitioned to officers they could not refer to their drill sergeants as “Sir” anymore and they were now addressed with respect as “Mam.”

Carol served in the Marines for 13 years during the Vietnam era (1964-1977). During these years, women were treated differently, and one rule excluded women from driving the golf carts that were used on base to get from place to place. Female Marines had to wear a special high-heeled shoe with the brand name “Personality.” Carol hated those shoes, and she said they ruined her feet.

One of her first assignments was to take charge of swimming pool maintenance. When she insisted on holding a surprise inspection, she embarrassingly surprised herself on finding a pool full of Marines swimming and standing around in their birthday suits.

Carol reflected on another incident where she made an enemy out of a male counterpart. Her unit was practicing war games and in simulation she was assigned the role of “the ambassador’s wife.” An aircraft carrier was used in the drill for relocating the evacuated, and she was excited to be the first woman allowed on that ship while it was at sea. Carol became fully immersed in her role as the "ambassador’s wife" and when the “Captain” came to get her out by helicopter, she raised Cain and refused to go without her great grandmother’s crate. The monitors of the drill stood by and offered no help to the Captain as he tried to fulfill his evacuation mission. Carol remained adamant about not boarding the copter, and the Captain was very angry because he needed to carry other casualties out. Finally he made one of the evacuated Marines disembark so there would be room for the "ambassador’s wife" with her great grandmother’s crate. Later when debriefing on how things went, the soldier who played the part of Captain confessed that he didn’t know what to do when Carol refused to cooperate. The monitors reported that the evacuation was slow and valuable time was wasted. In an effort to justify his actions he complained, “She was impossible!” He was reminded that his mission was to get the ambassador’s wife out first and foremost. If she refused to board without the trunk, then the trunk should have been loaded immediately. Rather than argue with her, time could have been saved to return for more wounded Marines after taking care of the initial assignment of getting the ambassador’s wife out! Ever since that drill, whenever she saw this colleague, he gave her mean looks and “hated her” from then on.

Carol recalls the many people she served with. There were many differences among the people she met, and it was very interesting getting to know them. “When you join the service you meet people from all over the country, and it really broadens your understanding of America.” Carol says she is kind of sorry there isn’t a draft anymore. “Volunteers don’t always have the opportunity to experience working with people from different parts of the country.”

Carol Pollock's Story -- The Marine

There he stands, a man of steel, a heart of gold, and a tarnish proof exterior

The Marine

By Carol Pollock

The fire roared—hot steam, a golden glow, a shower of embers that seemed to burn into the soul, and the future of America poured into a sheet of white hot steel ...moves slowly toward its end.

A man stands, his back bared, the sweat makes his skin glisten and reflects the red of the furnace—his eyes in rhythm of his heart and breathing, his muscles strain—and once more the flames shoot high, and man stands small and insignificant below, marveling in what he has helped to create.

His hands are large, they grip the shovel with solidity and determination, that later comfort the small child who has found pain—a gentleness that has no end, nor a beginning, but is. A whistle blows, a hand removes the shovel, the man staggers into the air, breathes deeply and draws on the cigarette pressed against his lips. The eyes hurt, he closes them, something warm is in his hand, he gratefully takes the cup and drinks—the hot liquid as refreshing as the cold beverage he will consume when the shift is over. The whistle blows, he rises without comment and walks back to his work, erect and hopeful of the future...

“OK, you guys, let’s move out.” He shoulders, his pack, empties his cup, snuffs his cigarette, picks up the rifle and without comment, marches briskly forward, erect and hopeful of the future.