Retired Airman builds bonds, resilience with comedic veterans

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
After 28 years of service, 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, she said. The Air Force was not only her ticket out of working in a factory or farm in Batesville, Mississippi, but it also ended up being the family that shaped her into who she is today.

After nearly three decades immersed in military life, Basuedayva didn't know how to transition into the civilian lifestyle. She later met a group of fellow veterans in a comedy class who exposed her to life beyond being an Airman. Their testimonies helped her realize she could accomplish just as much in her new chapter in life as she had done before in the Air Force.

"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."

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 showed her how 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 she 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, 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," Basuedayva said. "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 only participating to fill an empty space her retirement left behind. She was there to help others in her new comedy family, as well.

"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 OK 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," she said. "This has given me more freedom to go out beyond the military and be as connected as I want to be."