Louisiana Guard Member Finds Fulfillment Later in Life
(January 30, 2009)
Army 2nd Lt. Angela K. Fry hugs her cousin
Stephanie G. East, of Hackberry, La., after East
and other family members were rescued from flood
waters by the Louisiana Army National Guard
after Hurricane Ike in September 2008. Fry
joined the Louisiana National Guard when she was
38 years old. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rebekah L.
ALEXANDRIA, La., Jan. 26, 2009 – At 38
years old and with a 15-year-old daughter, Angela Fry took
on the challenge of basic training and the possibility of
deployment. She already had a degree, so it wasn't for
college. She had a job, so it wasn't for the money.
Now 41 years old, Fry said she enlisted in the Louisiana
Army National Guard because she felt as if something was
missing in her life.
She said she wanted to make a difference, and knew she could
if given the opportunity.
"I know people say this a lot, but I really wanted to serve.
Enlisting in the Guard gave me an opportunity to not only
serve my country, but also my state, and most recently, my
own family," the Eros, La., resident, said.
Fry said she first thought of joining when she was
volunteering with the American Red Cross in New Orleans
after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"I think, after an event like that, anyone who has
compassion wonders if there is more that can be done," Fry
said, “if there is something they can do to help. Joining
the military was something I always wished I had the courage
to do, but I thought the opportunity had passed. I thought I
was too old." |
A colonel from the Michigan National Guard told her about
the Guard and assured her she still met the age requirement.
That was all she needed to know.
Susan J. Avery, Fry's sister, said that when Fry began to
talk about joining the military, her family thought she was
"We would have never thought she would join the military,
especially at 38 years old, but we should have
known better," Avery said. "She is a very determined
Many may think that going through the rigorous training at
38 would be more difficult than going through it at 18, but
"It was difficult, but I felt like I had an advantage over
the younger soldiers,” she said. “I had life experience. I
had already been out on my own for a while, and I knew many
people in the Guard who warned me that a lot of the training
"They break you down as a civilian, but build you back up as
a soldier," she said.
After returning home, she began drilling with the 527th
Engineer Battalion's 1022nd Engineer Company in West Monroe,
La., as a nuclear biological chemical specialist before
transferring to the 528th Engineer Battalion in Monroe, La.
"Most new soldiers are younger than 38, but her age did not
stand out in her physical appearance; it did in her maturity
level," Army Command Sgt. Maj. Brent D. Barnett, the
battalion's senior enlisted advisor, said. "She is just one
of those individuals who will jump right in and take
Fry enlisted as a specialist, but soon was promoted to
sergeant. With her diverse skills, she was confident that
she would be able to serve as an officer. "I not only wanted
to be a part of the everyday lives and events that our
soldiers participate in, but I also wanted to lead them,"
She submitted her direct commission packet and anxiously
waited to find out what her future held.
"I, as well as many others, immediately saw the leadership
potential that she had and encouraged her to become an
officer," Barnett said.
Fry's life was struck with tragedy when the house she was
sharing with her sister burned down in February 2007.
Everything was destroyed, including her computer, and the
homeowners insurance covered very little. She also found
herself jobless, since she worked out of her home in Monroe,
La., as an independent medical consultant.
She did not stay down for long, though. Within a month of
losing everything, she learned that the Louisiana National
Guard had started a public affairs program and was looking
for journalists. She said she was ecstatic at the news. Fry
had earned her bachelor's degree in liberal arts,
specializing in public relations and journalism, from the
University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1995.
"Not only did I want to be part of such a great team when I
enlisted, but now I would be able to tell the soldiers'
stories. I would have a chance to tell everyone about the
great things they do," she said. "Sometimes there is so much
negativity about the military, but I wanted people to see
what I saw when I was working with the American Red Cross
during hurricanes Katrina and Rita ... and what I still see
Though she saw much of what the Guard did while she was
volunteering, she gained even more appreciation of their
efforts when her own family was rescued by the Guard after
Hurricane Ike in September 2008.
I knew the night before the storm hit that my aunt's house
was starting to flood as she, my uncle and his father left
with my cousin to ride out the storm in my cousin's house,
which is on higher ground," Fry said. "But I began to get
nervous when I lost phone contact with them."
The next morning, as soon as the weather permitted, the
National Guard teamed up with the Louisiana Department of
Wildlife and Fisheries to begin search and rescue missions
with boats and high-water evacuation vehicles.
"I was riding in a Humvee on my way to cover some of the
search and rescue missions, hoping that I would hear from
them, when amongst the many evacuees, I saw a familiar dog
on the back of a high-water evacuation vehicle, and then
began to see familiar faces," she said smiling. "Sure
enough, it was them.
"I felt immense pride being able to help not only the
residents of Louisiana, but by circumstance, my own family,"
she said. "This time I had the opportunity to make an
immediate impact with the full force of the Louisiana
National Guard behind me."
Fry's direct commission was finalized Oct. 25, and she was
promoted to second lieutenant.
"I think she'll polish her leadership skills as she goes
along," Barnett said. "She will always lead from the front,
and she'll never ask anyone to do something that she hasn't
done, or can't willingly show them how to do."
Fry's co-worker, Army Sgt. Rebekah L. Malone, of Pineville,
La., spoke highly of the newly commissioned officer.
"She exemplifies the highly regarded journalistic quality of
'going after the story,'" she said. "She works extremely
long hours to write well-rounded stories that highlight the
hard-working Louisiana National Guardsmen."
Fry said there are times when, as a soldier-journalist, she
needs to put down her camera and help to fill sandbags. "I
gladly do both," she said.
Fry said this is exactly where she wants to be.
"I plan on staying in the Guard for as long as they will let
me,” she said, “and I am ready to face any challenges that
may come, even deployment.”
"Joining the military and becoming an officer were both
dreams I thought were out of reach,” she continued. “But
I've learned that it's not what is pushing against you that
matters, it's how hard you push back."
Army Sgt. Tresa L. Allemang
Special to American Forces Press Service
Army Sgt. Tresa L. Allemang serves in the
199th Brigade Support Battalion.
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