During Women’s History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran May Brill, who served in WAVES during World War II.
In 1924, May Brill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her two brothers enlisted into the Army and the Coast Guard, which inspired her to join the military. After graduating South Philadelphia High School for Girls, she later enlisted into the military at age 20. She completed six weeks of basic training at Hunter College in The Bronx, New York, then received specialized training at Georgia State College for Women.
Brill served from June 1944 to June 1946 in Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). She served in Oakland, California, as a seaman third class. She was one of nine Jewish women in her barracks of 400 people. On her base, she supplied goods and equipment from warehouses to the Pacific bases and fleets. She achieved the rank of storekeeper second class.
After her service, she attended Temple University where she met her future husband and Navy Veteran, Norman Brill. They married in 1948. They had four daughters together. She returned to school at age 50 and earned her human services degree with a minor in gerontology from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University).
Brill is an advocate for women Veterans, and in 2019, she organized, “Women Veterans are Not Invisible.” She worked with Keystone Uniform Cap Corporation of Philadelphia to produce military hats designed for women. Brill encourages women to wear their military branch hat in order for the nation to remember their service. As the chairman of New Jersey’s Women in the Military, she works to address problems women face in the military.
“My biggest aim is to teach girls that they should be proud to be female and to encourage all people to learn about the history of the past so we can try not to repeat the bad in the future,” Brill said. “I’m 91 years old and this is what I’m fighting for. This is why I’m still around.”
Additionally, Brill is an activist for Veterans’ rights. She is the chairperson for the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, New Jersey. As the senior vice commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post 126, they provide donations to these 300 Veterans at the Memorial Home. She is philanthropic and knits hats for newborns in Israel. In her community of Cherry Hill, she volunteers with the Katz Jewish Community Center.
Thank you for your service!
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Hannah Nelson
Editor: Julia Pack, Christopher Wilson
Fact checker: Ciara Nalda
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley