Trish Parris

Trish Parris

U.S. Marine Corp Veteran, and Mrs. Claus to her Santa

Celebrate Our Veteran gives voice to the stories of the U.S. military veterans living amongst us. The actions of these brave and dedicated people, who have served our country both in active military duty as well as administrative positions, have and continue to contribute to the protection and preservation of us and our country. 

We hope that this section of our paper is an opportunity for our community to hear and see veterans with new eyes, and for veterans to receive recognition and honor for their experiences and life journeys. 

This month’s Celebrate Our Veteran recounts the story of Trish Parris as told in her own words.

Today she lives in Myrtle Beach with her veteran husband and Santa to her Mrs. Claus role, Dale. Click here to read his story. 

by Melissa LaScaleia 

I’m from Jackson, Tennessee, one of four siblings; the baby of the family. Other than my dad serving in WWII, as most dads did back then, I’m the only sibling who chose to go into the military, mainly because I didn’t have a lot of options. I wasn’t a great student. And I was 19 years old, divorced and had a little baby, and I needed a way to support myself and make money. I knew the military had great benefits.

I decided to join the Marines. I truly don’t know why I picked that branch. I walked in off the street to the main recruiting office for all branches of the military, walked into the Marine Corps office and said, ‘What do I need to do?’ And the recruiter there looked at me and said, ‘We don’t take women.’

I was really shocked. This was December 1977, two weeks before Christmas. So I turned to leave, and as I did, I bumped into the other recruiter coming in the door. And he said, ‘Hello, can I help you?’

And I said, ‘Well, I was going to sign up to join the Marines, but they just told me they don’t take women.’ And he said, ‘Well, technically, no, but come on in and sit down and let’s see if we can work something out.’

Basically they had a quota to fill for men, and if they had a woman who met all the criteria then they would look to see if they had a job that was appropriate for a woman and put me in that spot. Because back then, women were never assigned to combat units.

Initially, I was disqualified because I had a child. But I actually ended up going to court and turning temporary custody over to my family to care for my child so I could go to boot camp.

I went to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot camp. They sent me to administration school, I was going to be admin. Back then, as you got close to graduation time, the person who was graduating top in their class gets their pick of duty stations to go to. There were 50 of us in class, 49 openings in Okinawa, Japan, and one opening in Washington, D.C. The Japanese tours were unaccompanied tours, meaning you couldn’t take family with you. So the only way for me to get my daughter back was to make sure I graduated first and pick Washington, D.C.

I did. And ended up staying in the D.C. area for most of my career. That was also where I met my husband, Dale, in 1978. I worked in administration until I was selected to work as a classified courier, transporting classified documents between the Pentagon and other buildings in the area.

In the Marine Corps, you get transferred to a different location every three or four years. But I kept getting transferred to locations in the D.C area because of my classified clearances. Those clearances are expensive and valuable, so they wanted to keep me in the area. I was extremely fortunate that throughout my career, they moved me blocks away instead of states away. Dale and I were married by now, and had bought a house in the area.

Because of my credentials, I was assigned to the commandant of the Marine Corps, the head of the Marines. I stayed with his office for three years. When it came time for me to transfer, his office arranged for me to go down the street and work in the secretary of the Navy’s office. I stayed there for three years. When it came time for me to leave, they asked me where I wanted to go. I told them I wanted to go to Quantico, VA because it was down the street from my house.

I was assigned to the Presidential Helicopter Squadron, HMX-1. They are an incredibly tight-knit group, and there aren’t many women— it was still an old-school old boy’s club, and I was not very welcomed. But I did well.

Then I got orders from there to go to Japan. It was 1988. But I got pregnant. It wasn’t my intention, but it happened. And at a certain point they won’t let you travel when you’re pregnant, so my orders got canceled, and they sent me back to Arlington, to headquarters for the Marine Corps. I went out on maternity leave, then returned to Quantico as an instructor at Officer Candidate School— the officers version of bootcamp. I then spent three years as a recruiter for the Marine Corps, still in Virginia. 

I eventually went to Okinawa, and spent one year over there with a helicopter squadron. I ended my career in Arlington, and retired in 1998. I had been in the military for twenty years and wanted to do something different. I wanted to be home with my second child and spend my time doing family and church-related things.

I volunteered a lot at the school where my daughters were; I drove a school bus; I was a substitute teacher; I did all kinds of things. I just wanted to be as involved with my kids and their activities as possible.

Then Dale and I became Santa and Mrs. Claus. For the first ten years, we weren’t really involved with it except during the Christmas season. But after the first convention we went to, we really got into it more, trying to make ourselves a better Santa and Mrs. Claus. 

I got involved with one of the conventions, and over time I worked with several big ones. Now, I’m co-director of one of the major Santa conventions in the country. And I do things with my grand-babies. I like being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. And I’m fortunate enough to be able to do that.

My eldest daughter moved to Conway with her husband, so now we’re all down here. In retirement we are enjoying time with our daughters Christie and Courtney, and their families. We also like to travel, and I’m taking time to quilt, read, cook and volunteer.

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