Denise was serving in the Coast Guard during September 11th. She shared how September 11th changed everything. Not only in the military, but also in other aspects of what we now consider normal life. She worked at the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) when it was being stood up and shared all the different challenges they faced starting this new agency. She also advocate for both men and women to stand up to sexual assault. It is something that happens to both men and women and we need not only for people to report that it happens. But for leaders to ensure accountability when it does.
Denise grew up in an Army family. Her dad served for over 20 years and retired as an o-6. Her mom served and while the law had been changed so she could continue to serve while pregnant she choose to get out of the military. Going into the Coast Guard was an act of rebellion in more ways than one. She graduated from law school, studied for the bar and then headed off to 30 days of training to commission into the Coast Guard as a JAG.
Things were going well for her and her career and then September 11th happened and everything changed. She was supposed to fly from Boston back to D.C. on September 11th and then she heard the planes hit the twin towers. She tried to get in contact with her family. Her finance was quickly deployed on a ship. She couldn’t reach her parents. They were worried about her. When remembering that day it brought up a lot of emotions for Denise. She recalled a lost classmate who died at the Pentagon. And she reflected on how the Coast Guard changed its mission overnight.
Leaving the Coast Guard
At the end of her four year commitment she decided to get out. Her husband was also serving and she had seen first hand as a military kid what other military kids who had both parents serving during war experienced. She wanted to be a mom and wife and didn’t see the military as a viable option going forward.
TSA start up
Her next job was working to stand up the TSA. She shared about how quickly this organization was created and how it changed the focus from safety to add in security. She also discussed how mother nature threw them a loop when Hurricane Katrina and other storms hit.
The interview ended with a focus sexual assault. Over 70,000 cases have been reported since 2010 and over 8,000 cases were reported last year. It is good that people are starting to report but it is important that leaders stand up and ensure that victims see justice. It was also a good reminder that women and men are working to advocate for women. You are not alone if you are a survivor of sexual assault. You can reach out to Denise or contact me. I also interviewed Shannon Hough earlier this year. She created Shield of Sister to support women who have experience Military Sexual Trauma.