As she read, reread and replied to love letters from a shy sweetheart off at war, 1938 Hopland High graduate Marjorie McNeill wore a uniform, too.
She was 23 when she decided it was time she did more to defend her country.
"There was nothing I could do in Hopland," she said, "and all the boys had gone off to the service."
One of the young men who'd left to defend the country following Japan's attack on U.S. forces in the Pacific was a quiet and likeable Healdsburg native, George Dogali. He and McNeill met early on during World War II, when he made a brief visit home.
She recalled, "The excitement then -- this'll kill you -- the excitement then was at Fred Reed's service station north of Cloverdale."
Reed ran a popular beer bar in the station, and one day McNeill was there with a girlfriend when she noticed that a GI in uniform had noticed her.
It was Dogali. He summoned the courage to say something to her. Right then, the young soldier who'd grown up in Healdsburg and Cloverdale hit it off with a young woman from Hopland. When he returned to duty, they began to exchange letters.
McNeill could only worry and wonder when the letters from Dogali stopped in mid-1943. She learned later he and the Army's 7th Infantry Division were shipped to the frigid Aleutians to dislodge the Japanese from Attu Island, a springboard to Alaska.
Dogali was wounded in the offensive in which the 7th Infantry lost 600 men and the Japanese more than 2,300. Destined not to return to combat duty, Dogali was still recovering from shrapnel wounds to a leg when his sweetheart back in California joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, soon to become the Women's Army Corps or WAC.
McNeill's enlistment made her one of more than 350,000 women who would serve in uniform in World War II. Having worked after high school as a clerk at Hopland's post office, she figured the Army would put her to work in that same capacity on a base somewhere.
That's not what came to be.
After basic training late in 1943 in Iowa, the recruit who'd only once in her life left California -- on a trip to Reno -- was ordered to report to New York City, then to a recruiting office in the Jamaica area of Queens.
"I didn't like it," she said. "I was never a city girl."
"I remember the first Christmas. My roommates wanted to go downtown to Times Square and see the Christmas tree. I didn't want to go. I preferred to stay in my bunk and feel sorry for myself."
She felt better, although a mite confused, on the day she opened a letter from Dogali, stationed at the time in Hawaii. Out of the envelope dropped an engagement ring.
"But he hadn't asked me to marry him," she said.
Months later, they both returned to opposite sides of the Sonoma-Mendocino County line to visit their folks. Dogali was at the McNeill house in Hopland when his girlfriend told him she appreciated the ring she hadn't yet worn but she needed to hear some words.
"I told him, 'If you want me to marry you, let's have a proposal.' " The soldier and Purple Heart recipient popped the question.