Adam Gunn, with permission
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the town celebrates one of its most accomplished residents. Margaret “Dolly” Carini, a ninety-eight-year-old veteran who served as a nurse in World War II, sat down for an interview.
Carini grew up in Massachusetts with two sisters, both older and uninterested in service. She did not want to be a star and liked being humble and quiet.
When she was just twenty, Carini decided to enlist in the Navy, saying how “…I wanted to help my country and learn in the medical field.” Before she was permitted to do that, however, she needed her dad’s signature. He delayed signing for two weeks, to make sure she truly wanted this, but she said she never second guessed or hesitated on her decision. She went on to serve from 1944-1946 in the Navy.
After enlisting Carini went to New York, where she learned how to administer medical injections to soldiers and used a typewriter to transcribe medical records, sometimes working up to thirteen-hour shifts. With early morning wake-up calls and regimented exercise before breakfast, where men and women would pull together tables to eat, the military life was certainly scheduled. Carini credits her need for order today as part instinctive nature, part leftover from the military. She said she did not have expectations of the military going in, and quickly found it expected an attitude of “keep your head down and in line” obedience. However, it was not all taxing work and strict protocol. Carini lived in small barracks with three other girls for two years, and fondly recalls how they would all prank and tease one another. In one instance she was “short sheeted”, with her bed sheets folded and tucked in a way that left her unable to lie down in.
Another one of the more vivid memories from service is her time marching. The scariest moment was being told to step over people who faint and to keep marching on. When such an instance did occur, there were personnel on hand to help, but the fact it went against all her medical training left its mark.
When the time did come to depart from the military, Carini looked for clerical and typing work, eventually moving back home, and landing a job recordkeeping at a shoe factory office. Initially she kept in touch with her old roommates and friends from service through phone calls and letters, but as everyone settled down to raise families, they gradually lost touch.
For much of her adult life, she was told she was not a veteran until Mr. Gunn, of the Abington Department of Veterans’ Services, met her. She faced years of belittlement from other veterans, claiming she was not a “real” veteran.
For Carini, she fell in love and married her husband- growing a family with four kids, eight grandkids, and eight great-grandkids. She and her husband were married until his passing, and she recalls her favorite memory of their time together as being their wedding day. Once their kids were old enough for a babysitter, she and her husband would go out dancing. Carini says the secret to forty-eight years of marriage is “…praying, living a good life, helping people, and being myself.”
Nowadays, according to Carini, she tries to make people smile and laugh. Her advice to her twenty-year-old self is a reminder that “prayer is powerful,” and credits being kind and loving as what helped her get to where she is today.