“Your Mother Wears Combat Boots!”

From Black Oxfords to Suede Desert Combat Boots

        Once upon a time, long ago there was an insult that kids threw at each other (what we’d call ‘bullying’ today). Kids teased other kids by insulting their mothers with, “Your mother wears combat boots!”


         When I arrived in Okinawa in March 1978, WM’s (as we were called) did not wear combat boots.  We referred to our utilities as  ‘blue pajamas’ and we wore spit-shined black oxfords.  At the time there weren’t enough women in the Marine Corps to justify having our own uniform so we wore what the women in the Navy wore.  

But I wanted real combat boots!

      In Okinawa a supply truck would drive through the base (MCAS Futemna) once a month with uniform items for sale.  I wanted the mens boots sold on the truck even if I couldn’t wear them! While the truck was on it rounds one month I hopped up on the back and picked out a pair trying them on for size since they only sold mens. Then my foot slid into the perfect pair and I could smell and feel the stiffness of the new leather.  I was not in possession of my very own pair of black combat boots!  The driver on the truck laughed as he was taking my money, ‘What are you going to do with them? Women don’t wear combat boots!’ I replied, “Didn’t matter. Someday I’m going to have kids, and if they ever get teased that their mother wears combat boots, they’ll be able to say, ‘Yeah, actually she does. What’s it to ya?'”  

        But before my tour ended on Oki, women Marines were officially issued men’s utilities and COMBAT BOOTS.  I already my pair spit-shined and ready to go and when I left Oki, I actually owned TWO pair!  The prized pair I bought for my future child, and the pair I was issued.   

MCAS Futemna, Okinawa, Japan – December 1978 – My first pair of combat boots!

Years Later…..

Class R1-91 (Advanced Course) – Staff Academy – MCB Quantico, VA

       I actually wore that precious first pair when I attended the Staff Academy at Quantico in 1992.  But while going through the obstacle course I fell off the logs while trying to jump to the monkey bars falling directly on my left foot.  ‘CRACK’ my left ankle hit the ground.  The instructors threw me in the back of a pickup truck and hauled me off to the Quantico Clinic ER where the corpsman came at me with leather cutters to get the boot off! “STOP! Don’t you dare! These boots are my kid’s inheritance! You’re not cutting!”  (I think I must have outranked him. He stopped.)  But the boot had to come off, and he finally agreed to cut the laces instead.  Dah!

(I later learned the boot actually kept the bone from shifting so I didn’t need it pinned.)    





              Once the foot was wrapped, the clinic wanted to send me to Bethesda Naval Hospital for casting.  No way! I wasn’t going.  Our Mess Night was scheduled for that night and I was President! I wasn’t about to give up that honor if I didn’t get back in time.  This Gunny wasn’t giving up.  How many chances did women Marines get to be the President of Mess Nights back in the early 90’s?  And so, I was bandaged and drugged with pain killers and promised to go to Ft. Lee Army Depot when I got home to get the cast put on. The Academy would be over at the end of the week.  I could live until then.  I attended my Staff Academy Mess Night as planned and the graduation two days later. 


Since the Staff Academy staff didn’t think I should try to climb the stairs to the stage, Major General G. R. Omrod, USMCR,  jumped down to present my diploma.


The Evolution of Combat Boots

       Eventually all Marines were issued the tan suede desert boots, with a few other styles in between. I have them all! But only one pair was present at my retirement ceremony on 31 October 2003.  The laces had been replaced in the old black boots, bought off the back of the supply truck in Okinawa in 1978, and now they were trimmed with red and gold ribbons.  I presented those boots to my first-born, 23 year old son, Phillip J. Dietrich and advised him:  “If anybody ever teases you by saying, ‘Your mother wears combat boots,’ you can proudly answer back, ‘Damn right she does!  And she can kick your ass!”  



P.S.  My Daughter wondered why ‘HE’ got the boots!  “First Born, First Boots” I explained. But there have been plenty more pairs since then!  She can have her pick!   


(After you’ve read my story, PLEASE leave a comment and tell me about your first pair of Combat Boots!)

13 thoughts on ““Your Mother Wears Combat Boots!”

  • Wonderful story Holly, thank you. It appears we were in Okinawa at the same time and I am certain we were within shouting distance several more times during our careers.. Good luck on the book, trust me it “ain’t” easy. Like they say, it’s real and it’s fun, bit it’s not always real fun.

    • Colonel Bathurst, Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. I received your beautiful book yesterday, “We’ll All Die As Marines” and can’t wait to dive into it. You are right! Writing this book is real and fun, but it definitely is hard work and even frustrating at times. But Marines don’t quit, do they! Semper Fi

      (Another glitch: My daughter’s account automatically logs in every time and sent the reply under her name.)

  • Holly, AWESOME. Thanks so much for the stories. We are both from the same era of black shiny oxfords and find it REALLY difficult to explain about ironing! Of all things… Think of the HOURS we spent…. shining shoes, sewing nametags, ironing shirtwaists!
    Looking for more stories. Semper Fi

    • Thank you so much Heidi! Yes, there’s lots of stories to tell our younger sister Marines. I’m working on writing them and will keep you posted! Semper Fi!

  • Hi Holly,
    Becoming an author might be your next career!
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your first story and look forward to reading many more.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!!
    Hugs From The ‘Hood!’
    Nancy Pudelwitts

  • Enjoyed the article. Looking forward to future reads. I never knew you were from Shamokin. I grew up in Schuylkill County.

  • Can’t wait to read your book. You are such a strong, accomplished beautiful lady. Today’s generation could learn so much from you. When life kicks you in the A** you adapt and overcome!

    • You are a true friend who was there with me for some of the fun, and some of the not so fun times! Thanks for all your support. Oh, and the one person who ran the 100 mile challenge with me!

  • Finally got to read Holly
    Great story and we have one thing in common
    While in college the baseball team was playing in Virginia and I injured my knee
    I ended up in Quantico ER

  • So glad you are sharing your stories now. Remember our times when you were in Meridain, MS? And before that when you tried to recruit me into the marines and I joined the navy instead?

  • Holly what a wonderful website. You have every right to be proud of your USMC career and your excellent writing style. Thank you so much for your service.

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