Honor Flight Syracuse honors trailblazing World War II Marine on her 100th birthday
By JOHNATHAN CROYLE | syracuse.com | Published: April 2, 2021
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Honor Flight Syracuse threw Central New York trailblazer Margaret “Peg” Bandy quite the 100th birthday celebration in Tully on Saturday.
“What a party!” she said. “It was a wonderful day.”
Because of the cold, Bandy, who was one of the first local women to join the U.S. Marine Corps after the American entry into World War II, watched a 77-car parade in her honor, including fire engines with their lights flashing, pass by from her son’s car.
“People yelled out, ‘Hey, Peg!’ to me,” she remembered. “It was magnificent.”
Joined by family, friends, elected officials and members of the community, Bandy was presented with a tri-cornered from the office of Congressman John Katko by, appropriately enough, a fellow female Marine.
Honor Flight, a private, not-for-profit, organization which honors America’s veterans for their service and sacrifice, hosted her Centurion Salute.
She calls the group a “beautiful thing.”
Her salute on Saturday recognized an incredible life story.
Bandy was born in Syracuse and raised in Liverpool. From the beginning she was interested in writing.
“I always liked to write, and it really got underway in high school,” she said in 1964.
When the United States entered World War II, though, her attention turned to the Marines.
An uncle in the Marine Corps not so gently dissuaded her.
“‘Margaret,’” she remembered him telling her, “there will never be women in the military.”
Undeterred, Bandy went to New York City to enlist immediately after women were allowed to to do so.
“Everything about the Marines was what I wanted,” Bandy said in a 2018 interview.
She would later visit that uncle again while in her uniform.
“He was proud of me,” she recalled and added that when a buddy of his asked if his niece was in the Army, he replied, “No, she’s a Marine!”
Bandy was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to train and was the only woman attached to the 10th Tank Battalion.
She recalls once being on a plane with a group of male soldiers. “Are you the nurse?” she was asked.
“No, I’m up here on the plane just like you boys,” she replied.
She was deployed stateside to assist operations overseas. She rose to the rank of sergeant.
She marched at President Franklin Roosevelt’s funeral and was awarded the Good Conduct, National Defense, World War II Victory, and American Defense medals.
After the war, a funeral in Chicago led to a reporter’s job at the Chicago Herald-American. She worked in the “Soldier’s Friend” department, devoted to veteran affairs.
“I ghosted a column, answered innumerable letter and sent out all kinds of information. At times there might be 1,600 veterans looking for help from us - stringing out in the corridors of the huge newspaper building even to the street,” Bandy said in 1964.
After a year, she missed home and returned to Syracuse.
Bandy joined the Syracuse Herald-Journal’s Women’s Department, writing about weddings and engagements.
She said one of her strengths was that she “floated around,” willing to volunteer for jobs wherever she was needed.
Once, Sports Editor Lawrence Skiddy asked if she could profile a local baseball player. Of course, she could she said, despite being unfamiliar with the game.
When she got back to the office, she asked Skiddy, “Is batting a thousand any good?”
While working at the newspaper, she met her husband, Richard, a news photographer, and a fellow Marine. They had two children together.
At the Post-Standard, she produced a teenager page and later worked on the city desk.
From 1975-76, she was chairwoman of the Bicentennial celebrations in Syracuse.
She remained active in veteran groups.
At 100 years old, Bandy remains just as sharp as ever. She laughs, jokes, and interjects information into the conversation.
“If I don’t jump in at my age,” she apologizes, “I’ll lose what I’m thinking.”
She still crochets and is proud of her five grandchildren.
“They are all wonderful career people,” she said.
Bandy looks back at her full life, serving her country as a Marine and working as a journalist, and is satisfied with what she has accomplished.
“I have had the privilege of doing everything I have wanted to do since I was eight years old,” she said. “I don’t need a bucket list.”
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