1st female leader cuts red tape GLEN BURNIE


October 14, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Maxine Marshall puts on her burgundy and gray hat and she's off -- to represent former prisoners of war at a Naval Academy tailgate party, at a ceremony at the Pentagon, at an awards presentation in Aberdeen.

The 68-year-old Glen Burnie woman is, as she calls herself, the "lady commander."

She heads the Chesapeake Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War, the year-and-a-half-old chapter of a 45-year-old national organization.

Mrs. Marshall is the first woman to head any of Maryland's five ex-POW chapters. Not the auxiliary, she quickly points out, but the chapter.

"We do not have an auxiliary. Our vets say their wives suffered and they have equal rights to the POWs," the widow of a World War II POW says. And an equal right to be chapter commander.

Mrs. Marshall's position blends ceremonial duties with plenty of hard work. She is trying to recruit members for the chapter. Membership now numbers 25 -- all of whom are former World War II and Korean War POWs and their families. Most live in or close to Glen Burnie, where the chapter meets.

The national group's roster shows another 60 ex-POWs live in Anne Arundel County, mostly in Pasadena, Severna Park and Annapolis, but have not affiliated with a chapter, Mrs. Marshall says.

"I hope to get them to join. I hope to try to contact a lot of them, to get them interested in the chapter," she says. "It takes the effort of everyone to work together as a team to get more people involved."

Mrs. Marshall also will be trying to plan programs with guest speakers for the group's every-other-month meetings.

Of particular interest to ex-POWs are federal benefits. Many former servicemen and their surviving spouses need help winding their way through the bureaucracy, she says, to apply for the services to which they are entitled. The national organization's broad mission is to assist veterans in any way possible, which includes finding, keeping and lobbying for benefits.

The widow of a World War II Army private, Mrs. Marshall says her husband, Irvin, said little about the nine months he spent in a Nazi prison camp after being wounded and captured in the Battle of the Bulge. He occasionally spoke of mistreatment by guards, of starvation, of being dragged into hills during Allied bombing raids, of inadequate medical care.

Now, Mrs. Marshall says, her husband's times of quiet depression, avoidance of doctors and rare revelations about his POW experience would be recognized as delayed stress syndrome. But two decades ago, that was not the case.

The couple met in 1966, when Mrs. Marshall, long divorced, came to Maryland from her native West Virginia. Irvin Marshall was a friend of her brother's. The Marshalls married in April 1967. Irvin Marshall died in April 1989 at age 77.

Mrs. Marshall, a great-grandmother, says she is carrying on a family tradition of patriotism. Her father was a Spanish-American War veteran who helped other veterans, she says.

Her sons are former Army men: Richard Marcinek, 45, of Parkville, wounded three times in Vietnam, is active with Vietnam veterans in Bel Air; and Herbert Marcinek, 47, of Charleston, W.Va., was in the Army during the Vietnam era.

The Chesapeake Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War meets at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of every other month at American Legion Post 40 in Glen Burnie.

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