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Retired Airman builds bonds, resilience with comedic veterans

By Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard | 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | July 20, 2016

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- -- After 28 years of service, U.S. Air Force Maj. Darlean Basuedayva was selected for retirement during the 2011 U.S. Air Force Reduction Board.

Basuedayva dreamed of commissioning since she was in grade school and was crushed by the separation. The Air Force was not only the retired major's ticket out of working in a factory or farm in Batesville, Mississippi, but it ended up being a family that shaped Basuedayva into who she is today.

After nearly three decades of marching, shopping at a commissary and showing her ID card to get to work, Basuedayva didn't know how to transition into the civilian lifestyle. However, she met a group of fellow veterans in a comedy class that exposed her to life beyond being an Airman. Their testimonies helped her realize she could accomplish just as much in her new chapter of life as she had during her military service.

"The military was my life and I loved it. I had a mission or purpose to get up every day, and then all of a sudden it was gone," Basuedayva said. "It's somewhat depressing because you find yourself trying to figure out who you are."

While in shock, Basuedayva learned early on that resilience was the key to getting through this change. After all, seeing her grade-school educated parents raise 13 children with a farmhand and custodial income was more than an example to overcome challenges.

To lift her spirits, Basuedayva started putting hours into something she has always excelled at, fitness. She also began teaching spin classes on base, but Basuedayva still felt she was missing a sense of camaraderie with service members.

As an effort to reconnect with the military, Basuedayva, who now works as the health promotion officer for the U.S. Army Public Health Center and special staff to the Senior Commander Army Element, Center for Initial Military Training, decided to join the Armed Services Arts Program comedy boot camp.

She hoped the class would help her feel a part of something greater than herself just as she had in the military, but she didn't expect to find inspiration through her fellow veterans in the class.

"It has been really great to make a connection with the other veterans; to learn that they have other interests outside of the military and that rank doesn't define who they are," said Basuedayva. "They inspire me.  Some of them are getting their Ph.D.s, doing art shows and all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the military." 

However, Basuedayva wasn't just participating to fill an empty space the reduction left behind, she was there to help others in her new comedy family.

"Darlean became a part of the family," said Fred McKinnon, an ASAP comedy boot camp coach. "What I saw within Darlean was a voice to help someone. She was always great at giving positive feedback because she wanted everyone to do well. It was a beautiful thing to see."

While the eight-week boot camp's focus was to teach and prepare veterans to perform a comedy act in front of a live-audience, it served as much more for Basuedayva.

"If this has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that it's okay to reminisce about the great things that you have accomplished in the past, but it is just as important to look to what is still left to accomplish," said Basuedayva. "This has given me more freedom to go out beyond the military and be as connected as I want to be."


Editor's note: This is part two of a three part series featuring veterans who participate in a local arts program to battle stressors.