At her recent retirement ceremony, Gunnery Sgt. Francine Jarrett a Ggunnery sergeantSgt literally came face to face with the women who inspired her the very reason she joined to join the Marine Corps 20 years ago, though they'd never met at her recent retirement ceremony.

Fellow Marines presented Jarrett with a framed, signed copy of the recruitment poster that caught her eye, and her imagination, as a young woman during the July 17 ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.Twenty years after a recruitment poster of three female Marines inspired Gunnery Sgt. Francine Jarrett to join the Corps, she received the gift of her career when the women autographed the poster and made a surprise appearance at her retirement.

"Just seeing the poster, I was already emotional," Jarrett said. "Tand then I heard ‘and the ladies are here!’ … I was blown away." Jarrett said of the July 17th ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.

"These ladies inspired me to join the Marine Corps, and here they were after 20 years. That was full circle."

The 1994 recruitment poster featured three noncommissioned officers — Marialena Bridges, Suzanne Gemignani and Eborah Johnson — in dress blues with the caption "After years of fitting in, maybe it's time to stand out."

It was a first for the Marine Corps and the U.S. military as it showed successful, professional women in a male-dominated organization, said Master Sgt. Zachary Bourgeois, who worked with Jarrett at Enlisted Professional Military Education, Marine Corps University, at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

"It was powerful because the poster, the image, broke every stereotype you thought of Marines at that time, and every stereotype of what you thought a woman could be in the military," he said.

Gunnery Sgt. Francine Jarrett is joined by the Marines, then noncommissioned officers, who inspired her to enlist: from left, Marialena Bridges, Suzanne Gemignani and Eborah Johnson.

Photo Credit: Courtesy John Bridges

Jarrett had recently graduated high school when she went with a friend to a recruiting office in 1995.

The Jamaican native immediately identified with the women in the poster. They were of different cultural backgrounds and didn't have a hard exterior — they looked like women, she said.

"I saw the poster, and they didn't have to say anything else; I wanted to join then and there," Jarrett told Marine Corps Times.

"They were feminine, they were gorgeous, and they were Marines."

The task of finding to find the perfect retirement gift fell to Bourgeois last November when he came onboard EPME as Jarrett’s replacement.

Bourgeois said the idea to find the poster and the women on it came about because Jarrett was "really, really picky."

After 'hundreds of conversations about planning the ceremony and trying to elicit ideas for a retirement gift, Bourgeois noticed that Jarrett’s eyes lit up when he made an off-hand comment about the poster, which he remembered from his time as a recruiter in 1999.

"You want to give something to somebody that means something to them, something that has some type of intimate connection to them … something unique to that person," Bourgeois said.

"I knew I struck gold."

He recalled a gift once given to him of an autographed recruiting poster, and hit upon the idea of doing something similar for Jarrett.

Bourgeois then embarked on a six-month odyssey to turn the idea into reality. It took him almost four months just to find a copy of the poster in good condition, and another further two months to track down the retired Marines through social media.

"The master sergeant Master Sgt. identified me and asked if I could sign the poster," said Dr. Marialena Bridges, a counselor at nearby Brooke Point High School in Stafford Suffolk, Virginia.

"I emailed him back and said I'd love to come to the retirement ceremony."

As luck would have it, the other two women, Gemignani and Johnson, did not live far away from Quantico either.

It occurred to Bourgeois to asked them to attend as well.

"The next thing I knew, he said he'd contacted the other two women and asked them to come," Bridges said. "The three of us were so excited to see each other."

Jarrett's retirement ceremony also became a reunion for the women, who had not seen each other since the photo was taken more than 20 years ago.

"It almost feels like a divine intervention," Bourgeois said. "As many times as Murphy's Law exudes itself in our daily lives, this was the one situation where everything that could go right went right … everything."

Bourgeois brought out the wrapped gift at the conclusion of the hour-long ceremony.

The retirement ceremony also became a reunion for the three retired Marines featured in the 1989 recruitment poster.

Photo Credit: SSgt Derek A. DeSensi/Marine Corps

Jarrett was astonished blown away when she opened the framed, autographed poster. Bourgeois then said that the women were present and asked them to come forward.

"After 20 years they were here to see me retire out of the Marine Corps," Jarrett said. "I was shocked, overwhelmed and speechless, but it was … unforgettable."

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