Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
This week, I had a chance to sit down with Denise Boudreault, the new manager of the American Legion Tom Whitmore Post 28 in Green River and 20 year Air Force veteran. Her first official day as manager was Thursday, November 1.
Denise’s military career started as an 18-year-old high school graduate, who she says, “lacked direction”. She went to a recruiter and initially signed up for 6 years in the Air Force.
She is excited to be the new manager of the American Legion, and is looking forward to encouraging the public to attend more Legion events.
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Denise, why did you decide to go into the military?
I graduated high school and I wasn’t ready to go to college, because I hated school. I didn’t have a lot of direction so one day I woke up and went to the recruiter and signed up that day. I was 18.
I have no relatives in the military, no history. I signed up for 6 years and ended up doing 21.
Why did you choose the Air Force?
I didn’t go into the Navy because I didn’t know how to swim. I was afraid of the water, so the Navy wasn’t an option. And I wasn’t real hard core so I didn’t want to go into the Marines or the Army, so the Air Force just seemed more appealing.
Can you tell me a bit about your service?
I started out in combat communications. When I went in they sold me on this great computer job. They said I was going to be fixing computers. It was nothing like that.
It was a combat unit. So our equipment was all deployed stuff. We would drop it off. We deployed runway stuff where there was no runway, so we’d go and set up combat runways. It had nothing to do with fixing computers. I think he needed a quota to get women into that career field.
So it was a total line that he sold me. I wasn’t good at electronics, so at my five year mark, I retrained and became a paralegal. I did that for the last 16 years, which was so much better. I’m way better with people than I am with electronics. But it worked out ok.
How did you become the manager of the American Legion?
I’ve been a bar tender here for a year and a half. I did a lot of volunteer hours and then the job just opened up, and I think it was a natural fit. I’ve been here for so long it just kind of worked out. I’m retired so it just kind of fit because I wasn’t working anywhere else.
What are you looking forward to now that you’re manager?
We have a lot of concerts here, but I want to try to have different events. We actually have a lot of events that are open to the public, but there’s this misconception that you have to be a member to come to our events. So some of our events aren’t attended as well.
And a lot of people don’t understand that if you have family members that are veterans, you can join under the family members. So I want to get the word out more. We have the Auxiliary and the Sons that you can join if you have family members that are veterans. I would like to try to grow those groups a little bit better.
So, what does the American Legion do?
We’re big supporters of our community. We have several community events. We have veterans assistance funds, so if veterans’ families need support, for example they get into a financial crisis and can’t pay an electric bill, a gas bill, or for groceries, we support them.
We have scholarship programs and we have different fundraisers within the legion.
What can you tell me about the Freedom Run that takes place next Saturday?
We have a 5k, a 10k, and a mile Veterans walk. The money from that goes to support Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for veterans and their families.
How did you end up in Sweetwater County?
I grew up in northern Idaho, but then my biological father passed away. Then my mom met my step-dad, and we moved to Rock Springs when I was 16, so I graduated from high school in Rock Springs.
Then I went into the military so I was gone for about 22 years. After I retired, my dad got sick, so I moved back to Rock Springs. I moved away for a short time, but then my dad got really sick, so I came back to help care for him. He’s passed away but I stayed here because my mom lives in Rock Springs, and this has become my home.
What is something unique about you?
I don’t know how to say no. Whenever somebody needs something, needs help, whatever, that’s me. No matter how thin I spread myself, I’m right there to help.
What are some of your hobbies?
Riding my motorcycle. I have a Harley Davidson so I like to ride. That’s my main one.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
The way they come together in a time of need. Whether it’s a benefit for someone, or whatever, the people always come together for them.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Always be honest, no matter what.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
The Legion. It’s non-smoking and it’s good people.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse or drive a car?
Ride my motorcycle for sure.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”. Definitely.
How would your friends describe you?
I think they would say I’m a good person, I’m a lot of fun, but I can be feisty.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
I would say my military career.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Sandra Bullock, because she’s witty, she’s funny, and she’s a really good actress.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
I just love this community. I love the way they pull together for people, they’re very welcoming. Everybody is down to earth and I just think it’s a really good community.