Laronia Cohrs said that going into the Women’s Army Corps was a good career choice for her. “I graduated high school in May of 1963 and then went straight into the Army.” She learned valuable life lessons, got good work experience and had a chance to serve her country – all at the same time.

Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

Reflecting on her time in the service, Laronia Yaraborough Cohrs said, “It was another life.”

Cohrs grew up in Dillon, South Carolina. She had two older brothers and five sisters. Her father was a carpenter who built furniture, and her mother worked in a cotton mill.

Cohrs enlisted in the Army in August 1963, three months after her high school graduation, and she served for two years in the Women’s Army Corps and was honorably discharged.

She came from a family who had some experience with military service.

Her father served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, in the Philippines, and her paternal grandfather was a Confederate soldier from South Carolina.

As for what attracted her to the service, Cohrs said that it seemed to her like a good career for a young woman.

“They had a career day at Dillon High School and there were recruiters there explaining to the students about the advantages of going into the service.

“I graduated high school in May 1963, and then went straight into the Army.

“I was first sent to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and then to basic training at Ft. McClellon, Alabama.”

Cohrs couldn’t remember being unhappy with any aspects of the service, even during the initial adjustment period.

“It was my first time being away from home. But I got along fine,” she said.

“Some of the girls were unhappy because they had to cut their hair, but I was okay because my hair wasn’t that long to begin with. It was only maybe down to my collar.”

Apparently, basic training for WACS during the 1960s wasn’t exactly the way it was depicted in movies like “Private Benjamin.”

Laronia Cohrs met her husband, Del Cohrs, when they were both serving in the Army at Ft. Meade. Cohrs said she has no regrets about her time in service and neither does her husband. Del and Laronia retired to Pocahontas County in 1998. They have a son and daughter and three grandsons. Photo courtesy of Laronia Cohrs

“I was serving during Viet Nam, but I never shot a gun,” Cohrs said.

“We did basic training, but basic training was much different for us women.

“I can remember doing lots of exercises and going camping.

“But it wasn’t scary – it was more like gym class with tents,” she added, smiling.

“I attended clerical school at Ft. McClellon. Back in those days, women were automatically assigned to clerical service.”

Cohrs was first assigned to Ft. Meade, Maryland – in a Special Troops Regiment.

All the WACs lived together in one building.

Women in service these days have a completely different experience.

“Now I think it’s men and women together in the barracks.

“We had strict curfews and were rarely allowed off base, but it wasn’t so bad.

“Being in Maryland was interesting. It the first time I’d ever been out of the south, and I was meeting people from all over.”

When I asked about the discipline expected of the WACs, Cohrs remembers that there was one particularly tough female sergeant.

“She was an authority figure, and she meant business,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought of disobeying her or making her mad.

“I enjoyed my work. I worked on overseas levies – helping process men who were going oversees.”

When asked what she liked best about being a WAC, Cohrs smiled and said she learned valuable life lessons, got good work experience and had a chance to serve her country – all at the same time.

“I guess I felt the proudest the first time we went touring around D.C. and we were wearing our uniforms.,” she recalls.

“Five or six of us WACS got permission to go into Washington, D.C. on a little trip to see the monuments.

“We wore our uniforms. It was a good feeling to be seen in my uniform. I certainly was proud.”

There were no regulations against WACs dating servicemen after basic training.

“We’d go on dates with servicemen occasionally, but more usually we’d go in groups,” Chors said. “It was usually going to get pizza or out to a movie.”

Cohrs met her husband, Del Cohrs, who was serving in the Army, at Ft. Meade.

By the time they met, Del, a Minnesota native, had trained in California, had been one of the troops sent to watch an atomic test in Nevada, and had served in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Del was also from a military family. His uncle was killed in World War II, during the invasion of Normandy, and several other family members also served in the military.

The couple got married in her hometown and eventually set up housekeeping in the Ft. Meade area.

Cohrs said she has no regrets about her time in service and neither does her husband.

After all, he got an education, got to serve his country and see the world, and he met his wife in service.

“I still keep up with one girl I was in service with,” Cohrs said. “She’s in Ohio now. She stayed in service longer than I did.”

After leaving the Army, Cohrs had a career with a telephone company.

Del and Laronia retired to Pocahontas County in 1998.

They are members of the congregation of New Hope Lutheran Church in Minnehaha Springs, active in the Marlinton Lions Club and Cohrs belongs to the Minnehaha Springs CEOS club.

They enjoy vacationing in Mexico each year during the winter.

The Cohrs have a son, Matthew, who lives in Florida with his wife Shann.

Their daughter, Elizabeth Weston, lives in Maryland with her husband, Ray.

They have three grandsons, Jesse, Tyler and Dylan, who enjoy adventures in Pocahontas County with their grandparents during school vacations.

As Veterans Day approaches, Cohrs says that it’s a good reminder for all of us to remember our troops.

She feels strongly that people should support them.

“Our service men and women would really appreciate anything we can do to let them know we support them,” Cohrs said.