Fifty years ago Phillip Morris launched the first cigarettes that specifically targeted women. The company's catchphrase that sought to entice women to buy Virginia Slims: "You've come a long way, baby." The slogan could apply to women serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The best example came last week, when The New York Times profiled 1st Lt. Marina Hierl, the first woman to lead a Marine infantry platoon. The Pentagon ordered the military services to integrate women into combat units in 2013. The Marines did not relent for two years. Today, though, 80 of the Corps' 15,885 women serve in combat units.
We note all that because Opha May Johnson made it possible. Today marks the 100th anniversary of when Johnson blazed the trail for women to enlist in the Marine Corps.
In a 1974 book chronicling the history of women serving in the Marines during World War I, Linda Hewitt, a former Marine, wrote of Johnson, "Her enlistment was a reflection of the dramatic changes in the status of women wrought by the entry of the United States into World War I."
Johnson was a 39-year-old clerk for the Interstate Commerce Commission when she joined the Corps. She is remembered as the first woman Marine because she happened to be at the head of a line of 305 women who volunteered to enlist that day. Unlike with Lt. Hierl, the Corps a century ago signed up women to perform administrative functions to free up male Marines to be sent to the European front. While we still have chivalrous reservations about the idea of sending women into combat, there is no doubt they have come a long way in the protection our nation.
GARLAND: We applaud the Northeast Rattlers youth football program in Haines City and its president, Randy Penick. Penick last month announced that with the school year starting today, the group was launching a new program called ACE, for Aim Conquer Enlighten. Penick says the intent is to focus the athletes on academics as much as football. Local professionals will help tutor and mentor the kids at twice weekly sessions. Penick added that ACE will mostly target middle school students. "We’re going to acknowledge grades, so kids know how important they are," he told The Ledger. It's a worthy goal, and we wish Penick and the players the best.
GARLAND: Speaking of Haines City, we commend Miracle Toyota. The car dealer launched a drive to collect school supplies to fill 1,500 backs packs it will donate to underprivileged students in the community. Then last week Tundra, a K-9 officer that Miracle Toyota bought for the city police department last year, helped capture a car thief who allegedly stole a car from the dealership. Miracle Toyota provides a good example of solid corporate citizenship.
GARLAND: News from California has reminded us how risky and heroic a profession firefighting can be, but we don't have to look there to realize that. Thus, we salute firefighters in Winter Haven. They recently battled not only the flames at Edwin Stensel's mobile home, but firearms ammunition that was cooking off in the blaze. They also prevented two propane tanks outside the disabled veteran's home from blowing up, thus protecting others in the 200-home community, and for good measure saved a litter of stray kittens at the site. Well done.
GARLAND: As for K-9 officers, we garland the nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s and Lynda Gordon of Coconut Grove. Gordon sponsored a pair of protective vets, valued at $950 each, that Vested Interest donated to Lakeland's police department for K-9 officers.
GARLAND: Back to Haines City, we applaud the anonymous donor who agreed to help fund an expansion of the WAY Center, which offers transitional housing to a handful of families at risk from domestic abuse, drug addiction, economic hardship or other problems. The donor, whose identity we wish we knew, agreed to provide a matching contribution up to $50,000 for each dollar the center raises through September. The organization still needs about $20,000 to get the full amount. Please consider helping out with a donation of your own so the WAY Center can obtain the full amount.
GIG: We gig Peter Rodriguez of Davenport, who was arrested last week in what was reportedly the largest illegal dumping case the Sheriff's Office has ever handled. Rodriguez is accused of dumping 10,000 gallons of used cooking oil in a vacant lot along U.S. 27 in Davenport. Detectives reported that Rodriguez admitted to dumping the goo, but did so in order to keep his job. His employer, Brownies Septic and Pumping, told The Ledger they were puzzled why he did so since the company has a dumping facility in Orlando. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says oils made from animal fats and vegetables are regulated just as those made from petroleum because they share common physical properties and produce similar environmental effects, including possibly injuring or killing wildlife.