GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A World War II veteran at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport celebrated her 101st birthday on Tuesday. One way she's marking the milestone is by telling her life story. Her experiences were recently recorded for inclusion in the Library of Congress.
WLOX met Marian Ritchie and learned what makes her South Mississippi Strong. At 101 years old, Marian Ritchie is the oldest resident at the Armed Forces Retirement home in Gulfport.
"I'm not the oldest person here. In years maybe, but otherwise no," Ritchie said.
This veteran served on the Navy Waves, which stands for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services during WWII. And just a day before her birthday, her life experiences were captured on camera to be placed in the Library of Congress forever. She still recalls signing up for the military during lunch break at another job.
"I came back and told me friends in my office and my friends said, 'What in the hell did you do that for!' Her exact words," recalled Ritchie.
While stationed in California, Ritchie was a Captain's Yeoman at the Shore Patrol Headquarters with the 12th Naval District.
"I read those reports. Gun education and blushed a lot," she said. "There were some really naughty boys first time away from home and they turned wild."
Ritchie said getting to work in California was challenging so her captain ordered the shore patrolmen to take her home every day.
"They put me on the back of the paddy wagon and hi hi hi on market street," said Ritchie.
Owner of Mission Foto documentary film company James Gray volunteers his time to interview and record the stories of hundreds of veterans, Ritchie being one of them.
During her short time in the military, Ritchie said she struggled with connecting to others.
"Don't get too close because they either die or move away and I don't like to go through that," she said.
"At 101, you have to persevere and she has done that in what I consider a very difficult period," said Gray. "She was in the Navy. She was suffering a great deal and you saw that in her interview. There was loneliness. There was lack of attention."
While stationed in Norfolk, VA and after three years in the Navy, Ritchie decided to take a discharge and start a family.
"The highlights of her career was the time that she served with the individuals that she served," said Ritchie's grandson Eric Keffer. "My mother served in the Air Force and growing up, our family served. Her grandfather was in the Civil War. Her father was in the Spanish American war. And it gives you a great appreciation for the military."
Time may have slowed her movement but not her wit.
"I enjoyed being in the military," said Ritchie. "I really did enjoy being in uniform. I still have my uniform upstairs."
"Why do you keep your uniform?" She was asked.
"Ok, right back at you, why not? It's there. What am I gonna do with it? Throw it out? Give it to the Salvation Army? No," said Ritchie.
When asked what the key to living a long life is, she said that you have to laugh and go on to something better, especially in the hard times.