(WFRV) – Angie Coenen always dreamed of being a mother, but she found her path leading not only to motherhood but motherhood in the military.
“He decided to go in but he wouldn’t go in unless I went in and I said, ‘Sure, I’m not doing anything and we don’t have any kids yet,’ so I went in and I’m so happy I went in.”
Imagine enlisting in the Army on a whim; that was the reality for 19-year-old Angie Coenen and her then-husband Bill.
Luck was on their side when they visited a recruiter in Appleton in 1974.
“We got the same MOS which was Strategic Microwave Systems Repair, and then they said, ‘We’ll station you together.’ You don’t get stationed together and you don’t get the same MOS, but they gave it to us.”
Shortly after catching the train out of Milwaukee for boot camp, Coenen’s luck ran out. She and her husband were split up temporarily.
She was heading to Fort Mcclellan in Alabama, for training with the Women’s Army Corps.
“I loved it, I loved the structure, I think that’s what I needed was structure in my life.”
Following some more training in the U.S., Coenen and her husband set off for Tai Pei, Taiwan in ‘76.
Stationed at the Tai Pei Military Exchange, Coenen worked with the Taiwanese military, providing support and training their personnel on Vietnam-era communications equipment like switchboards.
“For me, it was like a puzzle and I loved puzzles. It’s just a lot of things I would have never, ever done except I was there, (especially) being a woman back then.”
Then throw a baby into the mix. A move to Italy, and another baby.
Coenen got to see all sides of what it was like to be a woman and a mother in the military, now she just wanted to do the mother ‘part.’
“I’m glad I went in, I got to see both sides being a wife and having kids in the army and also being in the army. It was much, much more fulfilling.”
Most days now you’ll find Coenen here on her computer, where she runs the website for the VVA. Out of all of the veteran’s groups, she’s been a part of, she says the VVA is the one that makes her feel the most at home.
“I was welcomed, I was never shunned or anything there, I loved it. Maybe shunned because I was a woman, but they got over that real quick. You get kind of used to that when you’re the only woman wherever you are pretty much.”
The Vietnam war ended before Coenen ever finished her basic training, making her what’s called a Vietnam-era vet.
While she never wanted that title, sometimes it’s taking the road less traveled that makes you whole.
“All I ever wanted to be was a mother and a homemaker, period. On the way to becoming that, I went through this great adventure and I am so happy I did because it made me who I am.”
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