Each month, VA’s Center for Women Veterans profiles a different woman Veteran author as part of their Women Veteran Authors Book Corner.
November’s author is Air Force Veteran Angelica “Angel” Pilato, who served from 1967 to 1972 on active duty and the Reserve from 1974-1991. She wrote “Angel’s Truck Stop: A Woman’s Love, Laughter, and Loss during the Vietnam War.” The book is engaging, informative, humorous, and at times heart-wrenching. It highlights the conflicts, challenges, and choices she confronts as a trailblazing woman in a predominantly male environment. It inspires woman and men with stories of grit and persistence, provides a woman’s insights on the war, and highlights the dare and do of brave fighter pilots, men in a league of their own.
What was your career field?
Open mess secretary – a club officer who managed an Officers Club
What was your fondest or proudest memory during your military service?
Interesting question. I haven’t really thought about it. I was a trailblazing woman in the Air Force, being the first woman to be assigned the career service code as manager for an officers’ club. I didn’t think of myself as a trailblazer at the time. I was just trying to do my job.
My proudest moment/accomplishment was building Col. Gabriel’s patio at the Udorn Air Base officers’ club in Thailand in 1971-1972. The prior club officer had it on his list, but never got around to it! Ha! I thought how hard could be? Well, I found out when I started the project. I charged ahead and got around, over and through every hurdle and completed it on his birthday. Grit and persistence won the day.
What was your inspiration for becoming an author, or writing this book (for instance, a childhood dream, a significant life experience, a person…)?
After I recovered from my tour in Southeast Asia, many years after, I would tell funny stories at dinner parties about the antics of the fighter pilots who frequented the o-club. People kept saying, “you should write a book.” Right! It never passed my mind, because as I tell my audiences, anyone who gets “C” in English should not try this at home! I also, had a friend who kept telling me, Angel, you have a story and I think you should write about it.”
After many fits and starts in attempting to write about my experiences, I put it all in a drawer and left it for years. Then in 2006 another friend said, “Angel, why don’t you finish that book?” I thought about it and decided to commit to finishing it. I had someone type all my musings, from notes on scrap paper, dot matrix printer paper, etc., and when she finished, she said, “Angel, where is the next chapter, what happened to John and…” I knew then I had a story to tell and kept writing.
How has your military experience shaped your creativity or how you express yourself?
I can’t say the military shaped my creativity, I think I was a creative child, a doer, and a person who could express herself. My mother wrote in my baby book, “Angelica continues to amaze me with her incessant chatter!” Maybe she just found it annoying! The Air Force introduced me to four letter words, which I’m sorry to say wasn’t too creative.
What advice would you give other women Veterans who may be considering becoming an author?
Don’t give up! Be committed and surround yourself with people who will encourage you. Also, hire people who know what they are doing. I have horror stories of mistakes that were made and could have been avoided, if I had worked with real professionals.
How do you believe that women Veteran authors can be instrumental in shaping society’s understanding of women Veterans’ military experience and their contributions?
I think the more stories authored by women make us more visible and add to the information about women in the military. I think women are too reticent to tell their story, highlight their accomplishments, or brag. (I even had trouble writing that word.)
What were some of your obstacles and challenges in writing this book?
As mentioned above, not getting the right professionals to guide the process. Also, getting discouraged and wondering – will I ever finish. You need a cheerleading squad!
What are your recommendations for illustrating, book cover selection, and the publishing process?
Get/hire professionals to assist (repeat). There are way too many parts that need to be considered in getting started and getting it done. It can be done. Patience and persistence are essential to completing it.
What is one significant thing we should know about you?
I am a persistent completer. If I start something, I will find a way to get it done or I’ll remove it from my to do list!
How has writing this book helped you?
I think it helped me heal from all the sadness and angry I had from my time in Southeast Asia. And, I have to say, I think I’m a better writer now.
What is your favorite quote?
“Failure is impossible!” Susan B. Anthony, who worked tirelessly for women suffrage and died before the 19th Amendment was passed. 2020 is the 100-year anniversary. We are still waiting for the new $20 bill honoring women!
If you could choose one woman from any point in time to share a meal, who would she be?
Susan B. Anthony, of course.
Interview conducted by Center for Women Veterans. Learn more at https://www.va.gov/womenvet/.