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Alice Coffman

Airman 1st Class (Sep.) Alice Coffman joined the Air Force on June 19, 1951, from a small town outside of Dayton, Ohio. For Coffman, attending basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas was a thrill compared to living a lifestyle with no running water back home. That, coupled with meeting new people from all walks of life made it an eye-opening experience for her.

After assignments to Stillwater, Okla., and Mitchel Air Field, N.Y., Coffman received orders to Keflavik Air Station, Iceland. While in Iceland, she was given an opportunity to audition for an all-military performance show. She later made the cut and became the first woman to participate in the Air Force Variety Show, which is now known as Tops in Blue.

In March of 1954, the Air Force sent Coffman and her husband Stanley, whom she met in Iceland, back stateside but to separate duty locations. Alice received orders to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and her husband went to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. After an unsuccessful attempt to transfer to Wright Patterson, Coffman decided to separate so she could be with her husband.

Coffman said she’s proud of how far the military has come with women’s equality and the fact that women are able to hold positions that were once only available for men.

Coffman’s husband died in 2000, and since then, she’s been living at the Bob Hope Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, Fla. She still travels often and keeps herself busy with activities like zip lining and bungee jumping.

The Air Force Enlisted Village is a nonprofit organization whose core mission is to provide a safe, secure home for surviving spouses of retired enlisted U.S. Airmen.