Spouse of Navy Electronics Technician Chief James Willenbrink
Amphibious Construction Battalion Two, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek
Angie Willenbrink, spouse of Navy Electronics Technician Chief James Willenbrink of Amphibious Construction Battalion Two, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, understands first-hand how easy it can be for something to go wrong, resulting in a difficult situation.
“My daughter was born about two weeks early,” Angie explained. “When she was two weeks old, the diaper service delivery man rang the doorbell, and I missed the last two steps going down the stairs to answer it. I thought I had twisted my ankle.”
After crawling back upstairs in severe pain, Angie called her mother-in-law, who lived nearby, to bring her ice. She then called her doctor to explain her injury and was told to get to the emergency room.
“I had broken my foot and was placed in a non-weight bearing cast for four weeks,” Angie said. “I used crutches and put Madison in a snuggly little pouch around me so we could get around. I had just been put in a walking cast when my husband left for Great Lakes to cross rate, since his old rate was closing. He was gone for nine months, while I had Madison to care for.”
After completing Electronics Technician “A” school, Willenbrink was assigned to USS Nashville (LPD 13), and Angie began building an extensive resume as an ombudsman, first for Nashville from 2001 to 2004, and then for the Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit Dam Neck from 2005 to 2008.
Through her position as chairman of the Hampton Roads Ombudsman Assembly for the past four years, she has also been the ombudsman for Commander, Naval Region Mid-Atlantic Staff. Now that her husband has transferred to the construction battalion, she has become the ombudsman there as well.
“I put myself out there to volunteer to get some adult time,” Angie laughed. “With two small children, I need people to talk to, that’s not about Blue’s Clues. Plus I like helping people. It makes me feel good.”
Angie spends several hours each week either volunteering in the library of her daughter’s school, Pembroke Meadows Elementary School, or with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. Angie wants her children, Madison, 8, and Andrew, 3, to be as active as possible, taking them to dance and swimming lessons also.
“There aren’t enough hours in the day to do what I want to do,” Angie said. “I’ve worked hard to make it work. Now my son is in pre-school, so it’s easier to volunteer more, or I just bring him along.”
“Angie embodies the term volunteer, both in the Navy and the civilian community,” said Willenbrink. “She has a wealth of knowledge, and takes every opportunity to share that with those around her. I can honestly say she has the biggest heart of any person I have ever met.”
This showed a few years ago when Angie was called upon to help the family of a Nashville Sailor while the ship was deployed to the Persian Gulf.
“One of the spouses was hospitalized,” Angie said. “Her husband was authorized to return home, but their two pre-teen girls would have to go into state custody until he or the grandparents could arrive. I had one hour to find someone to take in the girls, or the state would have to step in, and then there would be a hearing to get the girls released.
“It would be easier for the grandparents to come into town, pick up the girls and go to the hospital,” Angie said. “But none of the mother’s friends were available, so I decided I would take them. My daughter was little then, so she thought it was wonderful to have the older girls in the house. We had a great time until the grandparents got there the next day.”
It is that kind of dedication to the command’s families that compelled Willenbrink to nominate his wife for the award.
“I was surprised about being a finalist,” Angie said. “I know Kris Edmondson and Sam Hand (two others who are also finalists), and I am humbled to be grouped in with these people.”