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Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • War Veterans Home couple recalls how they met 66 years ago

  • Their romance began at the end of the war, in 1946, as both were planning their discharges. Their story is a lasting romance between a Louisiana boy and Ohio girl which flowered during the World War II era.
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  • There are love stories ... and then there are the Champagnes.
    Roland, 97, and Marian, 92, are both Marines who served during World War II. They are also the "First Veteran Couple" at the Southwest Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jennings.
    Their romance began at the end of the war, in 1946, as both were planning their discharges. Their story is a lasting romance between a Louisiana boy and Ohio girl which flowered during the World War II era.
    Roland, who grew up in Houma, isn't shy about telling his story.
    "I enlisted in 1942. I was going to be drafted, and I'd been deferred because my sister and I were supporting my mother and her maiden sister. So I got delayed in going into the Army. I was accepted by the Marine Corps. I had to report on July 6th in 1942. It was on a troop train that went to San Diego for boot training for at least four weeks. We were on mess duty for a month after that.
    "We were scheduled to join the Third Marine Division," he continued, "which was just being activated, and had been given combat materials. But at the very last minute, our orders were changed and they took away our combat equipment, and we were in what was called a casual area ... waiting. Then about a week later we were on a train to San Francisco. Then we got on a troop transport, touched base at Pearl Harbor and went down to Palmyra (a little uninhabited spot in the vast Pacific) 1000 miles south of Hawaii and five degrees off the equator. I joined First Defense Battalion. I was down there a full year and the army relieved us."
    Roland paused for a moment before continuing.
    "I was on the workforce unloading bags of cement out of the troop transport — for construction of the machine gun emplacements by the CVs. The Sergeant Major called for me, had my record book and said, 'Champagne, I see you have 10 years of typing experience. How would you like to be my company clerk?'"
    Roland continued, with a smile, "I didn't know what a company clerk was — but anything was better than unloading 50 pound bags of cement five degrees off the equator.
    "So I said, 'Well if you think I can do the job, I will take a try at it.' I had a banking background and had learned how to type financial reports. Because I was able to handle the job and the extra responsibilities, I got out of guard duty."
    "All the ranks were going up in the paymaster department, and because of my banking experience, I transferred there. I needed as much income as possible because my sister and I were still supporting my mother and her baby sister."
    Page 2 of 3 - "When I left (Palmyra), I was stationed with Marine forces about a year and a half at Pearl Harbor in the paymaster area. I grew to be a staff sergeant. I was given my first leave of 30 days after three years. But I had to take a break in pay and a break in rank to buck sergeant. My staff sergeant ranking was only good in the 14th Naval District. I was assigned to Arlington Headquarters. That was where Marian was," Roland recalled.
    The two marines saw each other for the first time in the fall of 1945.
    "There were no barracks there for personnel. We lived in private homes, and we happened to be in a car pool together. And that's how we got to know each other. We were also in the same department at headquarters. We were in the paymaster department which is the equivalent of finance in the Army. And, she outranked me — she was a staff sergeant. And here, I'd been overseas for three years and was officially a buck sergeant, although I had been a staff sergeant in Hawaii."
    Roland showed off a picture of Marian.
    "That's her picture when she was discharged in 1946. That was on April 4, 1946 — 66 years ago," he said.
    Marian is from High Point, Ohio, far north of Houma ... and Roland.
    "I enlisted in Cincinnati; I was working there. I was prompted to enlist by all the signs, like 'Leave a man to fight.' Everywhere there were signs for women: 'Need you,' 'Join,' and it said Marines, so that's what I joined. I had to go to a place in North Carolina — Camp LeJeune — for about three or four weeks. We learned the history of Marine Corps and we read books, went to classes. It was just like school," she laughed.
    There were no women in Marines until World War II. When Marian was asked about combat training in boot camp, she responded, "No guns, no, oh no," and she laughed again.
    Marian was a stenographer and spent her service at Marine Headquarters in Arlington, Va.
    "I just loved to travel and to see different people. I met so many people from so many states. And it was interesting," Marian said about her job during the war.
    She remembered one day when there was excitement in the office.
    "We all got to the windows to see. I got to see Roosevelt. He didn't see me," she laughed. "He was coming out of his car to go to the office there at headquarters and when he got out of his car, they had to help him because he was lame. I didn't even know he couldn't walk; he was always sitting down."
    Page 3 of 3 - Marian was discharged and returned to Ohio. Roland was discharged and returned to Louisiana.
    "We corresponded and after that, when she was back home in High Point, she came to Houma and met my mother and sister. We brought her to New Orleans and rode her around in one of those buggies," Roland remembered.
    The veterans were married in High Point, Ohio, at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, and Roland took his bride back to Houma.
    "We were married toward the end of the year of 1946," Marian said quietly.
    "No, we married in 1947, the end of '47," corrected Roland softly.
    "Oh, yeah," Marian laughed.
    Roland went back to work in banking. The Citizens Bank and Trust Company in Houma employed him until his retirement in 1980.
    The couple have three children: a daughter in Nashville, and two sons who both live in Houston. They are proud of their five grandsons and enjoy their lives at the Jennings Veterans Home.

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