Ms. Veteran America 2012
Denyse S. Gordon
Denyse S. Gordon is Senior Manager, Veteran Support & Development with CACI International Inc. In that capacity, she assists newly hired veterans by providing assimilation, support programs and developmental opportunities to foster career progression, mentoring relationships and retention of all veterans.
Born in San Fernando Trinidad in August 1971, and raised in Brooklyn New York, her mother would routinely travel to the United States to visit her mother who left Trinidad in hopes of helping her family financially. In 1981, Denyse, her mother and two siblings moved to the US for good and settled into the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn with her grandmother and several members of her extended family. Several months after their move, tragedy struck the family. Walking home from an evening of work at the hospital, Denyse’s grandmother was accosted by three young men. A fighter from birth, her grandmother was not going to hand over neither her bag nor the few groceries she purchased for her family. She fought her attackers, but her fight ended tragically. Shot twice in her head at close range, they took from the family the matriarch. The glue! The life!
Faced with the uncertainty of a new country, the challenges of no longer being a stay at home mom to finding employment, and caring for the safety of 3 young children plus 2 of her sister’s kids, her mother struggled to hold things together. Although the burden was heavy and constant, she never showed it! Homeless, kicked out of family homes, healing from a divorce, and mourning the death of her mother her mother preserved! She found a job, ensured her children and nieces were fed and were under one roof. She stayed on public assistance for 2 years. She did not want that to define who she was – and it didn’t. Now, 30 years after her grandmother’s murder, her mother has risen in the ranks within the Traffic Department of the New York City Police Department. And it is this perseverance which drives Denyse to this day. The belief that there is always more! The belief that you can do more! The belief that you achieve as much as you can for life is too short and no one is promised tomorrow.
Denyse comes from a long history of military and civic service. Her maternal grandfather served during WWII, her stepfather was a Vietnam era veteran and served in the United States Navy, her sister is a United States Army Reserve Captain who is a veteran of the Gulf War and Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom, her mother is an Executive Officer with the New York City Police Department Traffic Division and Denyse, who is also an OEF/OIF veteran, is an 19 1/2 Year United States Air Force Reserves Master Sergeant having served 12 years on active duty.
Her mother instilled in her at an early age that education is important and it was one of the few things you can always count on! Having a drive to succeed and equipped with the sacrifices of her grandmother and mother, Denyse attended college at State University of New Paltz on an academic scholarship in 1992. However, her mother was paying for three college tuitions, her sister’s, Denyse’s and her own. So, Denyse decided to leave school and join the military so she could fund her own education and relieve some financial pressure on her mother. Attracted to power of Fighter Jets, Denyse was drawn to the Air Force. After basic training in 1993, Denyse was stationed at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne Wyoming. Following that assignment, In 1995 Denyse went overseas to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa Japan where she had the opportunity to complete both her Associates degree her Bachelors of Science Degree in Psychology. In 1999 she was stationed at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Geilenkirchen Germany where she kept going and she earned a dual masters degree in Human Relations/Human Resource Development. Following Germany, she returned to the states to Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas Nevada in August 2001. In January 2003, she answered the call to deploy to Camp Doha Kuwait for what was supposed to be a 90 day Temporary Duty Assignment. Instead, she was in theater when OEF/OIF started where she served with brave men and women who fought and lost their lives for this country. During her time in Kuwait, her experiences forever changed her in every way. She understands firsthand the challenges of being a female veteran serving in a combat zone. There are no more ‘front lines’. Following her return from Kuwait, Denyse suffered with her Posttraumatic Stress (PTS) in silence and carried on as a Noncommissioned officer with a duty to mission. In 2004 she received an assignment to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea and in 2005, she returned to Nellis where after much deliberation, decided to leave active duty to pursue a commission in a reserve unit on Nellis. It was her intent to return to active duty as a commissioned officer and serve the rest of her career, but unfortunately, and fortunately, she did not earn her commission, but as a civilian she has been blessed to work in a career which she is very passionate about and last year she was promoted to Master Sergeant in the USAFR.
In 2006, after transitioning from Active Duty, Denyse moved to Virginia, and began working at CACI 2007. Denyse’s drive and initiative, led to her being promoted into her current role as the Diversity & Disabled Veteran Recruiting Manager. Denyse continues to be a driving force in CACI’s bid to be recognized as an employer of choice for Diversity, Disability and Veteran hiring. An effective Program Manager with forward thinking ideas on how to continue to expand both programs for the benefit of the company, her outreach efforts, presentation, collegial work habits and continued involvement in all things Diversity and Disabled Veteran have helped propel CACI as an industry leader in Disabled American Veteran/Wounded Warrior hiring.
A survivor of Military Sexual Trauma and PTS, Denyse understands the issues surrounding the vulnerabilities many military females face. In 2007 Denyse began to pursue her doctorate degree in Health Psychology. As an “All But Dissertation Candidate”, Denyse will be researching the Social Dominance Theory as it pertains to female combat veterans, military sexual trauma and the plethora of co morbid issues which often arise while they serve.
Over the course of her 19 1/2-year career with the United States Air Force and Air Force Reserve and her 5 year career with CACI, Denyse has committed to maintaining the highest of standards as a public servant in both her military and civilian careers. And, recognizing that education can be the determining factor in achieving your dreams and goals, Denyse and her siblings founded the Phyllis Katherine Morgan Academic Scholarship for their mother in honor of her late grandmother. This $5,000 United Negro Scholarship is awarded yearly to a deserving student who is studying in the social science field. Denyse is the recipient of numerous military awards and decorations, and has been inducted into the Golden Key International Honor Society for educational excellence while pursuing her doctorate. Her passions also include creative arts, staying physically fit, enjoying her family and spending time with her constant companion, her 8 year old Border Collie!