PUEBLO, Colo. – Love comes with sacrifice, rewards and challenges, especially when one or both are military servicemembers. Being prepared to deploy at a moment’s notice when the Army calls is not easy, but the Van Wagenen’s were ready.
Dual military couples know life can often be far from typical. Raising a family while deployed during one of the challenging times of this generation brings a unique set of circumstances, but, as always, love prevails.
U.S. Army Cpl. Maggie Van Wagenen, a native of Darnestown, Maryland and a combat medic assigned to 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, and Sgt. Frederick Van Wagenen, a native of Marietta, Georgia and a combat medic assigned to 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, a dual military couple deployed to Pueblo, Colorado, have relied on an unconquerable love, a fighting spirit, and tremendous support from leadership and family to keep them going strong through tough times.
“Being dual military, active duty, is doable,” said Frederick Van Wagenen. “The Army has really come in and supported us as a dual military couple when we needed it.”
The Van Wagenens are both stationed at Fort Carson and currently deployed together in support of the whole-of-government response to the federal vaccination efforts at the Community Vaccination Site at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo. The two combat medics work in different areas at the site, but perform similar duties which include screening community members, administering vaccinations, and leading their fellow soldiers.
“It’s pretty special to us that we get to help out and vaccinate people and help put an end to this,” said Maggie Van Wagenen. “Our children, we get to tell them, ‘Mommy and daddy went and did this, and mommy and daddy help people.’ I think as a medic you’re just always excited to be able to help.”
The federal vaccination effort is a whole-of-government partnership between the Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency designed to vaccinate community members in need of assistance. While the married couple continues to strengthen the federal vaccination effort with their service, their personal story of strength and resiliency is one to behold.
The Van Wagenens met in advanced individual training (AIT) in Fort Sam Houston, Texas while learning to become combat medics.
“We were in formation, it was alphabetical so we were right next to each other,” explains Maggie Van Wagenen. “It was right when the Army was transitioning from (Army Combat Uniform) to (Operational Camouflage Pattern), and I heard this voice say, ‘Are we allowed to wear the new uniforms?’ and I looked up and I saw Frederick and I was like, ‘Oh my God, who is that?’”
Fast forward a few months later, both have graduated from AIT and finally get the opportunity to be with each other in a setting outside of the Army.
“By Christmas block leave, he came to my parents’ house on Dec. 26,” said Maggie Van Wagenen. “Dec. 27 was our first date. Dec. 28, we were engaged, and Dec. 29 we had eloped after breakfast.”
High times and excitement filled the crisp winter air as the couple reluctantly departed back to their duty stations. Although living halfway across the country from each other, the newlyweds were confident in their future together going forward, despite what others had to say.
“When I came back to my duty station, people were telling me I was going to be a (geographical) bachelor, and Frederick and I knew that,” said Maggie Van Wagenen. “Frederick and I would FaceTime each other every day, and we were in it for the long haul.”
While already facing the odds as a long-distance couple, their first true test together was just around the corner.
“Unknown to both of us, I came back pregnant from block leave,” said Maggie Van Wagenen.
Because of the help of an amazing leader in Staff Sgt. Edward Fulner, Maggie Van Wagenen would be on the move to Fort Hood, Texas soon to be with Frederick. The couple was going to be able to spend their pregnancy together.
Or so they thought.
“Frederick was getting ready to go on a rotation to Korea,” explained Maggie. “Just before I was supposed to leave, my water broke at 23 weeks. It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve been through in my life. We came very close to losing our son.”
Thanks to the support and sacrifices made by U.S. Army leaders such as Staff Sgt. Fulner and Lt. Col. Charles Ford, Frederick was instead sent to the same duty station as his wife and even was assigned to be at her bedside.
“Right now, we’re very lucky to have Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston,” said Maggie Van Wagenen. “He’s making a lot of positive changes for families in the military.”
Grinston recently changed the post-partum period from six months to 12 months. Pregnant service members can now get temporarily promoted if they meet the promotion point requirement and they can go to professional military education school after their post-partum period. Maggie loves that Grinston often reaches out to social media pages of Army mothers looking for advice and feedback.
“We know the military takes care of us,” said Frederick Van Wagenen. “We’ve gone through trials and tribulations and the Army was there for us. How we saw [the Army] take care of her, and eventually both of us, it really sold me on staying in the military.”
The Van Wagenens are beyond grateful for the outstanding leadership in the Army. Maggie, who is being promoted from corporal to sergeant on May 3, is eager to be a positive influence on the Soldiers she will lead thanks to those who have been so instrumental in her life.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what awards you’ve won; nobody is going to remember that,” said Maggie Van Wagenen. “They’re going to remember how you impacted them and how you took care of them.”
Today, the Van Wagenens have been proudly married for four-and-a-half years. They have two children: three-year-old Frederick Van Wagenen V, and two-year-old Charlotte Fitts Van Wagenen.
U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing continued, flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.