Meet the 96-Year-Old Advocate for Female Veterans

May Brill is still on her mission to raise the profile of women in the military.

female veterans

May Brill, 96, sports a U.S. Navy insignia hat to commemorate her service as a WAVE during World War II. Courtesy of Matt Zugale

In the final years of World War II, May Brill decided to follow her two brothers into the military.  

Her reasoning: “It’s my country, too.”

Brill thought the Navy might be a good fit, but the Navy was not yet accepting women in 1944. Instead, Brill joined the WAVES, the Navy’s female auxiliary.

Now 96, Brill is on a quest to remind the world that women serve, fight and die in all branches of the military.

“Women veterans are invisible,” says Brill. To help combat that disparity, Brill spearheads a drive that encourages female veterans to wear hats with their military branch—like their male counterparts do.

The Cherry Hill resident launched her project with a single hat—her own, with the U.S. Navy insignia. She has arranged for the Keystone Uniform Cap Corp. of Philadelphia to produce the military hats in sizes for women. (The price is $45; call 215-821-3434 to order.)

[RELATED: A Jersey Soldier’s Voice Emerges from the Past]

“Many people, seeing me wear my hat, have come up to me to say, ‘It’s about time women veterans have their own hats,’” Brill reports.

Last year, Brill and six fellow female veterans from various branches of the armed forces organized a seminar titled, “Women Veterans Are Not Invisible,” at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Brill’s hometown.

Despite approaching the century mark, Brill, widow of a Navy veteran, Norman Brill, energetically continues her involvement in volunteer activities, including serving as honorary commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 126 in Cherry Hill. She has received numerous honors; in 2017, Cherry Hill dedicated a day in her name.

So busy does she remain that Brill jokes that her four daughters, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren “have to make an appointment to see me.”

On November 11, Brill and a group of other veterans will mark Veterans Day with a visit to three South Jersey military cemeteries. You can bet she’ll be wearing her Navy hat.

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