When Janetta Nuttall recalled a recent conversation with a female Marine who served in the 1970s, it brought tears to her eyes.
“I’m emotional because she’s been through so much more than I can imagine,” Nuttall said minutes later.
Last Friday, the retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant and new Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7766 were outside the Rancho Bernardo Albertsons store, handing out VFW’s Buddy Poppy – something they did during years before Veterans Day and Memorial Day – and accepting donations to support the post’s activities.
Nuttall, 44, said the female veteran she spoke with — and those like her — were trailblazers who opened up opportunities for women like her who joined the Marine Corps in subsequent decades.
The veteran shared with Nuttall how hard it was to be a woman in the Marine Corps in the 1970s. They weren’t welcomed by many Marine men, had to prove they belonged there down and were an asset to the Corps, Nuttall said.
Nuttall retired in March after serving as a Marine for 20 years. She is now a real estate agent who specializes in assisting service members moving to or from San Diego and the North County area with their buying, selling, and leasing needs.
In a different way, Nuttall herself is a trailblazer.
Major Abraham J. Baum VFW Post 7766 was formed at Rancho Bernardo in 1986. Nuttall is the first female commanding officer in the post’s 36 years and is one of its youngest members. She was elected for a one-year term in August. Nuttall previously served as junior vice commander and senior vice commander.
“I’m still learning the job (commander), but I want to honor our veterans, the previous guys who recently passed it on to me,” Nuttall said. “I want to give back to the community in the best way possible while respecting our milestones and community involvement.”
She said those milestones include the post’s work with four units of the Mobile Logistics Group he adopted years ago at Camp Pendleton. The post provides support to the troops, their spouses and children throughout the year, including helping with Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations and providing food and toys at Christmas.
It was through this work that Nuttall, an Oceanside resident and mother of two young children, heard about the Rancho Bernardo position and decided to join in 2018 after much encouragement from VFW members. She was the family readiness officer on base, the person who helps build and maintain morale by being the direct link between the Marines, their families, and the base commander.
“Being the family readiness officer was my best job as a Marine,” Nuttall said of the position she held for three years. “It really helps people. When families are going through difficulties, they turn to the Family Readiness Officer for help.
The Texas native said she was 24 when she joined the military. She had held various jobs since high school, but the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed her life.
“I didn’t know what was missing until 9/11,” Nuttall said. “I wanted to be part of something bigger. It hit me so hard. I didn’t know anyone affected at the World Trade Center, but it resonated with me so much. »
She chose the Marine Corps because she was friends with a recruiter and his wife in Waco, Texas. Nuttall said when she told him she was interested, he said if she was really serious, they could discuss it in a few days. In January 2002, she enlisted and was soon absent for 13 weeks of basic training at MCRD Parris Island in South Carolina.
After earning her eagle, globe and anchor — the Marine Corps emblem presented to new Marines near the end of recruit training — she attended Basic Packaging Specialist School in North Carolina, then was assigned to a three-year tour at Camp Lejune. While there, Nuttall made his first deployment, for eight months in 2003, to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The deployment was scary, but I was trained,” Nuttall recalls. “I knew my training was beyond anything I faced.”
His second deployment, for Operation Enduring Freedom, lasted almost seven months in Iraq in 2007-2008.
His military service also included a posting in Okinawa, Japan; complete recruiting school and then be a recruiter in Texas; and later stationed at Camp Pendleton.
Throughout his military service, Nuttall received several personal decorations, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal three times, and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal five times.
Now that she’s retired from the Marine Corps, Nuttall said she tries to emphasize to current service members and veterans that the VFW is here for them. She became a life member earlier this year because she sees the importance of remaining a member for the rest of her life.
“The VFW helps us in Congress and the more VFW members there are, the more voices we can have for veterans,” Nuttall said. “If there aren’t many members, it seems veterans don’t need help.”
The RB VFW post has approximately 87 active members – almost all are men who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Getting young veterans and female veterans of all ages to join her is part of her goals and challenges.
“I tell them what we’re doing and trying to break the stigma of VFW, that we’re just going to a bar,” Nuttall said. “Every chance I get, I use social media to spread the word about what we’re doing.”
Nuttall said many VFW stations across the country have a canteen, which the Rancho Bernardo station does not. She said that because of the canteens, VFW has gained a reputation among young veterans and those on active duty that VFW is for a group of old men who want to meet in a bar to drink and share old war stories.
“At first I thought it was strange…that Rancho Bernardo doesn’t have a canteen, but it keeps us active in the community, organizing community events,” she said.
The post is involved in patriotic events held in conjunction with the Rancho Bernardo Veterans Memorial Association on Memorial Day, July 4, and Veterans Day. It also sponsors JROTC units at Westview and Orange Glen High Schools, the Voice of Democracy competition for high school students, the Patriot’s Pen competition for middle school students, and Teacher of the Year recognitions.
Members also participate in bingo games at 4S Ranch ActivCare once a month and at VA Hospital La Jolla on a quarterly basis,
Any military veteran who has honorably served overseas in a foreign conflict zone is eligible to join the VFW. This includes those still on active duty or in the reserves/guards. It also helps post members and their families in times of distress, supports BSA Scout and Girl Scout troops at Rancho Bernardo, provides money and volunteers during the North County Stand Down in Vista and San Diego Stand Down to help homeless veterans and provides other charities. assistance to veterans as needed.
In addition to having an attorney with the government, other VFW benefits include insurance programs, financial services, discounts on technology and electronics, travel services that offer discounts on hotels and car rental, retail discounts, savings on medical services, assistance with the transition to civilian life and assistance with end-of-life needs.
VFW Post 7766 meets monthly at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday at the RB Swim & Tennis Club at its Club 21 room, 16955 Bernardo Oaks Drive. Prospective members are welcome as guests. For details, visit rbvfwpost7766.org.
With VFW Post 7766 earning her national organization’s All-American Post designation three times for her work in the community, Nuttall said she has a legacy to uphold.
“I hope I will make former commanders proud of me and be a good role model,” Nuttall said.