Tomorrow, the city of Palmdale will hold a 100th birthday celebration at 38030 6th St., Palmdale for Pat Murray, one of only 20,000 female Marines who served in World War II in support of the millions of men fighting in one of history’s greatest conflicts.
Pearl Harbor was attacked when Murray was just 24 years old. At the time, she was a member of a roller skating dance troupe that was touring the country.
“We went around to different rinks and put on our little show, then we’d come home to our own rink and put it on,” she said. “I lived on my skates. We did fancy dances – the waltz, fox trot, ten step, tango, things of that nature – as well as tap dance and ballet.”
By the middle year of World War II, most of the troupe’s male performers were lost to the war effort.
“Once the draft was legislated, all of our partners were just gone within about two weeks,” she said. “It was that fast, and I didn’t have anybody to skate with. I decided I was going to go where the action was.”
So, Murray hung up her competition roller skates and left Toledo, Ohio, for boot camp at Parris Island.
She remembers the recruiting call at the time being “Free A Man to Fight” and she did just that, replacing a man as a parachute rigger, so that he could go into combat. By the end of the war, Murray had been promoted to sergeant for her work.
After leaving the service, she started a new career at the post office. `It was a very responsible job, but I wanted responsibility,” she said. She retired in 1980 from the Lancaster main office on West Avenue J-2.
Even after retirement, Murray continues to be a very active veteran with an expressed dedication to the Marine Corps. She helped form a nonprofit organization called The Young Marines, which helps troubled youth get on the right path. “This (program) is the love of my life,” she said. “We give them the same kind of discipline, motivation and values that we were taught in the Corps, then reward them for their achievements.”
Murray is a member of the California Marine Corps League and a charter member of Marine Corp League Detachment 930, which she remains actively involved with. She also joined the American Legion 348 and can often be seen conducting the “laying of the wreaths” at veterans’ ceremonies around the valley.
Murray is credited with getting a flagpole and flag erected at the Antelope Valley Mall, and with launching the drive to spruce up Palmdale’s historic cemetery with its interments of dozens of servicemen from conflicts back to World War I.
In 2014, Murray was named both the “Woman of the Year,” and “Veteran of the Year” for California’s 36th Assembly District.
“Mrs. Murray is an absolute force of nature,” added said then-Assemblymember Steve Fox. “The fact that she still is so cheerfully dedicated to the service of her fellow veterans is an outstanding example of the fact that age is only a limit if we perceive it to be.”