A woman’s long-held dream of serving was cut short

Nov. 11 – Erica Fredrick-Rock wanted to serve her country at an early age after finding value in volunteer work and community service as a teenager at Cony High School in Augusta.

When she saw the Blue Angels air show at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station after her freshman year of college, that was it.

“I thought, that’s what I want to do. I think I was paying more attention to the people who were there in uniform than the show,” she said.

Fredrick-Rock enlisted in the US Air Force, choosing to defer a college degree. Two of his grandparents had served in the United States Armed Forces. And while the enlistment of women was not so common in 1998, Frederick-Rock said she felt called.

The Air Force’s core values ​​— integrity first, service before self, and excellence in everything we do — have served as our guide in life, she said: “To this day, that’s how I make decisions.”

After enlistment, Fredrick-Rock was sent first to a base in Texas and then to Monterey, California to study as a specialist linguist at the Defense Language Institute, where she met and married Ken Fredrick-Rock.

But her dream of service was cut short when she became pregnant with her first child. A week before her daughter was born, she took an honorable discharge from the Air Force, as there was no way she could get basic training and care for her child. Her husband, also in basic training, couldn’t be home with the baby either. And even though there was daycare on base, it was still full—even though she had applied for a spot two months into her pregnancy.

She could leave her daughter in the care of a stranger off base or leave the Air Force. Confused and away from her family in Maine, she chose to provide the best possible care to Madison, now 22.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Fredrick-Rock said.

She served for 23 months until July 2000, a week before her daughter was born. Frederick-Rock, now divorced, still struggles with choice to this day.

“I joined the service because I wanted to explore. I wanted the adventure. And I was so good at it – leadership, service. I really embraced everything. I had to leave the position of chief team,” she said. said with tears in his eyes. “I don’t like to say that I regret it, because it means that I regret that my daughter was born.”

Today, 20% of those serving in the US Air Force are women, according to a 2020 report from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Fredrick-Rock, now 44 and working in accounting for Performance Food Services in Augusta, wants that percentage to be higher.

“I was never afraid to step out of my comfort zone. I went back to school at 33,” she said. “Was it the right decision for my family? Absolutely. But life would be so different if I stayed in (the Air Force). I think a lot of women (in the military) have to deal with this decision. I’ve never really spoken about it because it’s so difficult.”

Last year, Fredrick-Rock entered the Maine Police Academy as another way to try to serve her country, but a lung and neck infection sent her to the hospital, where she was underwent two surgeries and was placed in a medically induced coma.

She signed up to return to the academy in January and prepared for it by training in the gym. She graduated in May, but the physical trauma had taken its toll and she decided not to pursue the stressful job for now.

“I was determined and determined to graduate. I worked really hard to get my body back in shape. But mentally and physically I was exhausted,” she said. “I decided I wanted to keep my health.”

Fredrick-Rock’s birthday happens to be November 11 – and every year when she celebrates it, she thinks of the call she felt to serve her country.

“I would like to see more women in the military and in law enforcement,” she said. “I think women have better peacemaking abilities. I think any branch of the military has a lot to gain by having more women in its forces.”

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