Since 1989, Margo Coleman has volunteered in many ways to make her chosen city a better place, including helping to move the Albany Regional Museum, and serving many years with the Senior Center.
She also served as American Legion Post 10 Commander in 2006, the first woman to hold the post.
But then, she said she has always wanted to serve.
Coleman signed up for the Air Force in 1951 at 18, after having finished high school early at age 16, and spending a little time in college. In high school she shared her desire to join the military by writing a term paper about being in the service.
"They had us write about what we wanted to be when we grew up, you know," she said.
Coleman said she'd read a magazine article about joining the Navy, and was planning to do that, but a family friend who was in the army "coerced" her into the Air Force. Back then, the Air Force had only been a separate entity from the Army for four years; before that it was the Army Air Corps. She called basic training a Lackland Air Force Base in Texas "interesting."
"We wore the old World War II Women's Auxiliary Corps seersucker uniforms," she said. "And then the cold weather put half of us in the hospital."
Because she was out sick for the first few days of training, she said she missed the initial camaraderie experienced by trainees. As a result, she said when she rejoined her unit, she felt like a stranger in a strange land.
"But I managed," she said.
After basic and then tech school in Illinois, Coleman served as a ground radio operator, stationed at Kelley Field in San Antonio, Texas. One of her favorite duties was to perform maintenance on remote transmitters in the Midwest.
"We'd go to the motor pool to get a pick up and then swing by the country store to get a case of beer for the road," she said.
Coleman is specific about the time she spent in uniform.
"I served two years, three months, and 13 days," she said, explaining how getting married and starting a family in those days was a ticket back to civilian life for a woman. Such different standards are something Coleman is happy to see gone in the modern military, where now women increasingly serve in combat zones and both the Army and Marine Corps are looking into standing up female combat units.
Coleman's time in the service corresponded with the Korean War, and she said she was sorry in a way that she wasn't able to serve in that conflict.
"Because of World War II, I fantasized about being in combat," she admits.
Just like her discharge due to pregnancy, her training as a woman was very different from the modern day military.
"We never touched a gun," she said of basic training.
Does she believe women can fight as well as men?
"Sometimes better," she said.
Coleman will be one of four women veterans who will serve as grand marshals for the Albany Veterans Day Parade. She was honored Friday night at the Veteran of the Year Banquet.