This column presents “Patriot Profiles” to provide readers insight into the lives of our country’s heroes.
By Jeanne McKinney
Each time she walks into a room at Bethesda Naval Hospital, she shows a brave, determined face. When she connects with her Marine who may be missing a limb, an eye, struggling to speak or worse, this injured warrior feels like the only person in her sights. Each step forward has purpose, carrying her heavy pack of love and reassurance to provide at his or her bedside. First Lady of the Marine Corps, Bonnie Amos, then says, “I’m here to help you and your family. We’re not going to forget about you.”
Growing up indigent poor in Pensacola, Florida, the home of Naval Aviation, Bonnie Amos set her sights on college. Amos was a business major and became a manager at a small bank offering lower interest on loans. First Lieutenant James Amos was a flight school student at the time and walked into her bank. Bonnie fondly remembers, “He came in to apply for a car loan and I’ve been managing his finances ever since. He promised me we would see the world and go to wonderful and fabulous places and I had the ridiculous uncommon sense to believe him.”
This aspiring hometown girl was swept off her feet by a handsome jet pilot who made her laugh and would later become the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps. His sky-rocketing career landed them in desolate and remote regions, much to Bonnie’s dismay, but also in grand and glorious duty stations. For her, moving 29 times in 42 years of marriage was more annoyance, than sacrifice.
“I’d jump up and down and say ‘You can’t make me do this ever again.’ Then we’d get to somewhere like Hawaii and I’d say ‘This is terrific – it’s the most amazing place in the world.’”
Bonnie admits her “gypsy life” has not been easy. “When we talk about the people who have sacrificed in the military lifestyle, it’s really our children.” Her daughter’s famous statement is, “Dad, do you have any idea how many boyfriends I’ve left for you?” Yet her daughter admits it has helped form who she is. For Bonnie’s more introverted son, “It made him reach from inside and project out more.”
Home for General and Mrs. Amos is a 16,000-square -foot estate in Washington, DC, occupied by every Commandant in the last 200-plus years. She fills the many rooms with loveliness as a wife, soul mate, and friend to husband, Jim, a busy four-star General, who shoulders immense responsibility. Here, she sleeps by night and plans by day how to better employ herself for the good of the Corps.
When it comes to family support, Bonnie’s been a key player in the Marine Corps evolution.
“When Jim left on his first 13-month deployment to Japan, we did not have family support structures in place,” she says, “We were living in Hawaii and I no longer belonged to that squadron or group of pilots’ wives. I thought I would shrivel up and die. Not having the skills or maturity to cope, I packed up our 1-year-old baby girl and went home to my parents in Pensacola.”