Denise Bergenty: Living a History of Service

U.S. Army veteran Denise Bergenty celebrated her 21st birthday in basic training in Alabama. Not only was it one of her life’s seminal birthdays but it marked her commitment to serve our country as well.

She remembers, “I was from Canaan and hadn’t really been anywhere. I wasn’t scared but I knew from my dad that I needed to be in shape before I left.” Her father Richard “Dick” Bergenty served in the Army in World War II in the European Theater as a combat engineer. After the war, he became a reserve in the Connecticut 837th Rocket Field Artillery and was part of the building committee and a lifetime member of the VFW Couch Pipa Post 6851 in Canaan, CT.

In her time, Denise describes, “There were only women in basic training. We were the Women’s Army Corps. While I was at basic, they retired the Women’s Army Corps colors and we became one army.” That was 1978. Denise went on to serve two years and after her time in the Army she worked for the government as a civilian in Germany.

“It’s the history of women in the military that motivates me,” asserts Denise. “I was a field representative for Connecticut and a charter member of The Women’s Memorial in Arlington Cemetary. I helped raised funds to build it 22 years ago.”

For Denise, The Women’s Memorial is unique because it honors all women who served our country. “Whether or not they raised their right hand and said, ‘I do’ with regard to actual service or they served in another capacity, they’re honored.” Denise describes the tremendous contributions of Rosie the Riveters, the moniker given to the surge of women who joined the workforce in the early 40s, particularly in the industrial sector, after men enlisted in World War II.

“Women piloted airplanes to get them to posts where they were needed. They couldn’t spare the men to make those trips,” Denise describes with pride. Working on the Memorial gave Denise “the perfect opportunity to hear those women’s stories. It’s about the history. I’m very proud of being a veteran. There is a solidarity,” she says of her connection to this sisterhood of service to our country.

“The Memorial is an actual building where, if you know a woman veteran, you can put her name in the system. If she’s registered with the Women’s Memorial her name and service will come up. Many don’t know about it but it’s the best way to honor a woman in your family who served.”

In Denise’s estimation, the military is “a big part of who I am. I grew up with the history of the military. Respect and courtesy are part of me.”

Before she enlisted in the Army, Denise was a CNA at Noble Horizons. This experience was built upon at Fort Devens where she served in a surgical ward and gained tremendous hands-on experience.

Today, she works in the wellness program at Noble and has worked in the dietary, maintenance, and recreation departments and has also managed the chapel. She attributes her agility in her career to her time in the Army. “You never knew what you’d be doing on any given day. You kind of have to go with the flow,” she comments. “I’m capable and able. I  might as well step up wherever is needed.”

This Memorial Day, in the face of parade cancellations, Denise will join her fellow veterans from the Canaan VFW at the cemetery salutes. She reminisces about another Memorial Day Parade that is special in her memory, “After my dad passed I marched with his WW2 hat in my hand.”

“Raising my right hand to say ‘I do’ was a commitment that I made. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s part of who I am.”

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