Marilyn lives at the homeless shelter in Port Townsend, WA. Marilyn chatted with me while seated on her walker, and I noticed her hands resting on her cane. We were outside and the sun had moved off and a chill had moved in on us, and I had this sudden thought, as I gazed at her hands, that this could be my own mother.

After a difficult childhood in the foster care system, Marilyn enlisted in the Navy because, as she says, she “fell in love with big ships.” She was one of the first dental technicians to serve at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD – now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. When offered the opportunity to be the first woman on an aircraft carrier, Marilyn was conflicted. “It sounded like such a great chance. Just imagine being the first woman on an aircraft carrier! And how I loved big ships! But still…”

Marilyn’s history at Bethesda made her justifiably hesitant: She had been raped twice while at Bethesda, and says the thought of “being trapped on the ship with all those men and no way out” terrified her.

Despite these traumatic years, and the ensuing diagnosis of PTSD, Marilyn completed a double major in Teaching and Anthropology/Sociology. She still hopes to one day tutor children again.

Marilyn would like to make her way to Oregon to be with her brother after COVID-19 has cleared. In the meantime, she wants you to know that homelessness can happen to anyone. “You lose your way,” she says. “You just get lost somehow. After a while, life becomes a mundane, repeating, Groundhog Day.”

Update: In 2022, Marilyn was placed in permanent housing at an all-female assisted living facility, founded and run by female veterans.