Marine Discharged 31 Years After Deserting
POLAND, Maine -- Elizabeth Tremblay's worries of prison are over.
Tremblay, 57, of Poland received her general discharge Monday morning from the U.S. Marine Corps.
The discharge, which was "under honorable conditions," ends a decades-long odyssey for Tremblay that began with her enlistment in 1980, her departure from the Marine Corps a year later and continued last September, when she was arrested and jailed on a charge of desertion.
During the interim, Tremblay, who was born "Donald Tremblay," also began a sex change.
"It's going to take a while to sink in," she said. Her case was featured in Sunday's Sun Journal. "When it hits home, that will be emotional."
Tremblay said she left the Marine Corps in 1981, shortly after her orders were changed. She had joined the Marines with the expectation of training in teletype communications. Instead, the Marines wanted to change her specialty to driving trucks.
Rather than accept the new orders, she returned home to Lewiston. She worked at L.L. Bean and Bates of Maine until she injured her back in a 2001 car crash. She has collected disability ever since.
In the mid-1990s, she changed her name to Elizabeth. She also began a hormone regimen to initiate a sex change.
She has shoulder-length hair, a woman's bust and a whispery voice. She has not had surgery to remove and replace her male genitalia.
Since 1981, she heard no sign that the Marine Corps wanted her. There were no phone calls or letters, she said.
That changed when the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office discovered a warrant and the desertion charge on a federal database. On Sept. 10, she was arrested and jailed for two-and-a-half days. She has been waiting for the discharge ever since.
Though she had enlisted as "Donald," her discharge, known as a DD-214, reads "Elizabeth Marie."
To her, it feels like a healing gesture on the part of the Marines.
"Every time I hear that old name, I hate it. I cringe," she said. "It's like, 'This is who she is now, and we need to get on the same page and acknowledge it.' "
She plans to meet with a counselor sometime in the next few days to find out whether she is eligible for veterans benefits.
For now, she planned a simple celebration.
"Maybe I'll drive into town and buy a 12-ounce ginger ale," she said.