Vietnam veterans are happy couple

Vietnam War veterans Donald Bolich, left, and Mary Ann Bolich, right, pose with their daughter Kelli Stutz at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday. The three took part in the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight, Mission 14. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Donald met Mary Ann the first time, well, neither of them really remembered it.

But years after that first meeting at age 16, the two were reintroduced and Donald and Mary Ann Bolich, both veterans of the Vietnam War, became husband and wife.

They shared their story while traveling with Upper Peninsula Honor Flight Wednesday.

Donald grew up in Ironwood and was drafted into the Army at age 23 in 1970.

Mary Ann, on the other hand, grew up in Watersmeet and really, really wanted to join the Marine Corps.

“My dad had a fit, but mother signed papers for me when I was 18 so I could become a Marine,” Mary Ann said.

She did boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, then was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, from 1967-68.

“I worked in the communication center, handling teletype and the notices of death that were sent by telex. At midnight every night, we had to burn everything.”

Donald was sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for infantry training, then to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for advanced infantry training. Next stop? Vietnam.

“I extended my tour there, but got out of the service six months early,” he said. “Everybody said I was nuts but I made it home, so …”

When both returned to the U.P. from the service, they were introduced “again” by her brother, Billy, who told Donald about his three sisters. Donald agreed to a date with Mary Ann.

“I guess it worked out. Forty-six years married, here we come,” Mary Ann said. The couple lives in Ironwood and has a daughter, Kelli Stutz, who was their guardian on the trip, and a son, Casey, who was in the Army for 22 1/2 years and now is with the Army Corps of Engineers.

They have two granddaughters, Alexis, 15, and Adelyn, 12.

What’s the secret to 46 years of marriage?

Donald said, “She put up with a lot of hell through the years.”

“When I want something, I get it,” Mary Ann said, smiling.

Asked separately what part of Honor Flight they were looking forward to the most, both had the same answer: The changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mary Ann said she first learned about UPHF from the Veterans Administration advocate in Bessemer, who said the flight was accepting applications from Vietnam veterans.

“And here we are,” Mary Ann said.