By Barbara Leap
During the final throes of World War II, when May Brill was 20, she decided to follow her two brothers into the military.
Her reasoning: “What about me? It’s my country, too.”
While her brothers were in the Army and Coast Guard, Brill thought the Navy might be a good fit for her. But there was a problem. The year was 1944 and the Navy wouldn’t accept women for another four years. It did have a women’s auxiliary called the WAVES, and that’s what Brill joined.
Now 96, Brill is engaged in a new battle. She wants to make sure the world knows that women in all branches of the military have served, fought, and died for their country.
“Women veterans are invisible,” Brill says. Now she’s spearheading a project encouraging female veterans to order a cap designed with their military branch, and to wear it daily like their male counterparts.
The longtime resident of Cherry Hill, New Jersey launched her project with a single cap, her own, designed with the U.S. Navy insignia. She has arranged for the Keystone Uniform Cap Corporation in Philadelphia to produce them for other veterans for $45.
Three of Brill’s friends, Air Force veterans Selina Kanowitz, Julia Coker, and Army veteran Constance Cotton, are helping her to promote this effort.
Despite approaching the century mark, Brill, energetically continues her involvement in volunteer activities, including serving as honorary commander of JWV Post 126 of Southern New Jersey. Last year she established the Norman and May Brill Memorial Legacy to permanently provide public forums at the JCC each Friday in May in honor of all veterans.
Brill is so busy, she jokes that her four daughters, 11 granddaughters, and four great-granddaughters, “have to make an appointment to see me.”
Volume 74. Number 4. 2020