‘A veteran is a veteran’

Washington and Florida are about as far apart as one can get in the continental United States.

But it didn’t take much effort from Darcy Bockman-Wright to convince Lisa Leathers to give up a week of her summer and fly across the country to join the staff at Florida American Legion Boys State (FALBS).

“When she heard the excitement in my voice about everything, she feels my passion and she wanted to share in this experience with me. It is a gift and a blessing to know that after 32 years, we still are battle buddies,” Bockman-Wright said.

“Long trip, but totally worth it,” Leathers said.

Bockman-Wright is FALBS’ marketing and communications chair. Leathers served as a counselor to the program’s press corps this year. And along with Department of Florida Programs Director Bekki Boarman, they’re a noticeable female presence on the FALBS staff.

It’s a role the women, all veterans and Legionnaires, welcome.

“When they get here and they get to meet all of us, especially the females, they get a different perspective (on what a veteran is),” Leathers said of the rising high school seniors that comprise the delegates at FALBS. “They get to realize that it’s a lot more diverse than that. In real life, they’re going to have female bosses, they’re going to have women that they’re working beside. So I do think it’s very important for them to see us in that way and get our perspective on what it was like to be in the military, what it’s like to be in government, what it’s like in the real world.”

FALBS Director Andy Satterlee said, “I want to get out specifically that the Legion is both women and men, and that they served together, and I want to show that positive impact to the delegates here so that they can recognize there’s a female portion of the Legion that served as well. …

“We need to recognize that a veteran is a veteran. It’s not just a male, it’s also females. Everyone is equal at Boys State, as I said in my opening speech.”

Satterlee called Boarman “the heart and soul of our program.”

“She’s the linchpin that gets the Legion in contact with us, helps administer our administration to Florida State University and the program itself, she sits with us on our board of directors as the secretary, so her input is extremely valuable. She has a voice with me, our program, the board of directors, and the Legion,” Satterlee said.

Boys State has become a passion for Bockman-Wright, who’s also a city counselor in addition to her marketing duties.

“Being retired and being in Florida, you’re supposed to be on the beaches and relaxing. Through the Legion, I’m involved in my post, I’m involved in my district as first vice commander. But Boys State has given me a passion. It gets me up out of bed on the days I don’t want to. I’m marching more than I think I ever did in the last couple years in the military,” she said. “I would do anything to get these boys up over that fence to the next obstacle, and better prepare them as better young men than they were when they got off the bus first thing in the morning on Sunday.”

Bockman-Wright said the impact goes both ways.

“I had a young man that got his Eagle Scout last year. And when he got his Eagle Scout and they put up the American flagpole and he stood there and saluted, he said, ‘Miss Darcy, I thought about you when I did it.’ And for all the female veterans that go into VA hospitals and are asked, ‘Where is your husband?’ time and time again, that was one point for us finally,” she said.

“We’re kind of sharing in those moments now, memory by memory with these young men, and that’s what makes it worthwhile every time we march up to the capitol and we sit in there watching them grow and develop, it’s very impactful. They inspire me to keep doing more because I know there’s more young men in Florida and throughout the country that need this program, and need more Legionnaires to be the boots on the ground doing what needs to be done.”

Leathers said she’d love to come back to serve on the FALBS staff and encouraged others to serve their Boys State programs.

“If you have a chance to support Boys State or be a part of it, I would 100 percent say please do it. Because we are building up our next generation,” she said. “And the example that we give them is going to have a huge influence on what they do in the future and who they become, where their values and morals come from. So if you can contribute at all in any way, do it.”


Boys Nation

Boys Nation

At Boys State / Nation, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments.

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