We Can Do It: How One Woman Found Independence During WWII
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Connie Rocha was the second of six siblings. She left school in the 8th grade to help provide for her family. Connie was 16 years old when the United States entered World War II, and like many women, she felt drawn to contribute to the war effort.
Connie Doria Rocha during her employment at Hickam Field in Hawai’i. Courtesy of Connie Rocha.
Connie began working at Kelly Field repairing airplanes as a sheet metal mechanic. After a year she applied for a transfer to another repair depot in Hawai’i, where she continued to work as an aircraft mechanic till the end of the war.
Women Mechanics known as “Kelly Katies” assemble for a photo. January 1944, at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas.
In 2008 Connie came to StoryCorps to record her memories for the Military Voices Initiative, to talk about the independence she gained through her work during World War II.
Top Photo: Connie Rocha during her StoryCorps interview in San Antonio, Texas on February 18, 2008. By Rose Gorman for StoryCorps.
Originally aired July 3, 2021, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
‘You Are Both’: A Chicano Arts Historian Celebrates His Mexican American Heritage
Tomás Ybarra-Frausto grew up in the 1940s, just outside of San Antonio, Texas, on a ranch that belonged to his grandfather. He was raised in a bilingual family, but when Tomás started elementary school, he was told that he and his classmates could only speak English — not Spanish.
At StoryCorps, Tomás told his longtime friend Antonia how the land he grew up on, coupled with his family’s emphasis on language and culture, helped him appreciate his Mexican American heritage.
After spending more than two decades in New York, working as a Chicano arts historian, Tomás returned to his roots and settled back in San Antonio, Texas.
Top photo: Antonia Castañeda and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto at their StoryCorps interview in San Antonio, TX on March 23, 2012. By Anaid Reyes for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Tomás Ybarra-Frausto at his StoryCorps interview in San Antonio, TX on March 23, 2012. By Anaid Reyes for StoryCorps.
Originally aired July 31, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Donna Engeman and Nicole McKenna
In 1981, when she was 20 years old, Donna Engeman enlisted in the United States Army. Prior to joining, Donna had not only never set foot outside of the country, but she had never even left the state of Minnesota.
While stationed in Germany, she met Long Island native John Engeman. Living in the barracks, they had what soldiers often refer to as a “barracks romance”—a fling that does not last long. But Donna and Sergeant Engeman quickly fell in love and in February 1983 they married.
Months after the wedding, Donna, pregnant with their first child, a boy, and believing herself to be a better spouse than soldier, left the Army and returned to the states to raise Patrick.
John remained in the military and in January 2006, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was deployed to Baghdad. On May 14, 2006, an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during a combat operation killing him and a fellow soldier.
Chief Warrant Officer John W. Engeman is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Donna and John’s son, Patrick, is currently an Army major who has been deployed overseas four times.
Donna came to StoryCorps with their daughter, Nicole McKenna (pictured together at left), to share stories of John as a young husband and father.
Originally aired May 26, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
Top photo of Donna Engeman courtesy of Slade Walters/IMCOM, U.S. Army.
Photo of Donna and John at a 2002 Military Ball courtesy of Donna Engeman.
Henry Flores and Gwendolyn Diaz
Gwendolyn Diaz had just started a new job at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, when she met her husband, Henry Flores, another professor there.
It was the 1980s and Henry, who describes himself as “one of the original computer nerds,” was on his way to the computer room when the new faculty member caught his eye.
This story is also included in All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps.