Jane Yarrall, escorted by her son, Graham Yarall, spoke with Marines participating in exercise Southern Katipo 2013 aboard Timaru, New Zealand, Nov. 19, about her experiences with Marines passing through her parents’ casino in route to the Pacific during World War II.
Graham Yarrall approached the gate of the Combined Joint Inter-Agency Task Force headquarters and asked Capt. Ashlee Nelson, team leader for 1st Civil Affairs Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force if she was a Marine while she stood sentry at the vehicle control point. When she replied ‘yes’, he immediately left and told his mother he had a big surprise for her.
“In 1941, my father was a Merchant Navy Captain and Chief Harbor Master, stationed at Apia, Western Samoa,” Jane Yarrall said. “My parents ran a casino hotel used to billet Marines as they transitioned to and from various operational areas in the Pacific, and for rest and recuperation purposes.”
Based on her previous experience with Marines, Jane Yarrall has brought her son up in favor of those that her father housed over half a century ago.
“Both my mother and I are great fans of the USMC—no one knocks the Corps in our presence!” Graham Yarrall said.
Nelson said while the Marines took pictures with Jane Yarrall, her son pulled out a Marine baseball cap and told the Marines ‘Semper Fi’, signifying the influence of relationships made in the past.
“She has a very special place in her heart for Marines,” Nelson said. “When she saw us she was smiling and putting her hands over her face in excitement.
Jane Yarrall told stories of Marines playing games with her and putting her on their shoulders while residing at the hotel. Her son said that he thinks many of the Marines were reminded of home and their own children when they interacted with his mother so far from home.
The Marines participating in SK13 are the first that Jane Yarrall has seen for 70 years, bringing her back to the memories engrained when she was a child.
“I think it’s great the Marines are here,” Graham Yarrall said. “I wish they’d have been here more over the years.”
While Marines have participated in a variety of exercises with the New Zealand Defence Force, SK13 is the first time New Zealand has hosted a multinational exercise of such a caliber.
“It’s part of our mission here to rekindle ties with the Kiwis,” Nelson said. “This exercise is a good opportunity to represent the Marine Corps in a great country like New Zealand. Meeting Jane Yarrall brought all of that together.”