This article previously appeared in Kentucky Opera’s OperaBill for Glory Denied, 2019
Article by Rashida Asante-Eccleston, Marketing Associate at Kentucky Opera
Verne Boddy, Brown Theatre Technical Director, has over two decades of experience. Over the course of his career, Verne continues to carry the lessons he learned during his time in the military in the 70s.
Verne comes from a patriotic family—his father fought in the Korean War and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) organization was an important part of his family’s social life. Following in his father’s footsteps, he volunteered to join the army when he was only a teenager.
Verne left the military in early 1975. When he returned home, he did not feel respected or supported.
“I had served my country,” he said, “I had done nothing to be ashamed of, but I was made to feel that I had nothing to be proud of either.” It took years before other people began to thank him for his service. Veterans may also find it challenging to discuss their work in the military with those who have not served.
“At some point in time you can share your experience,” Verne said, “But not necessarily with civilians, so you join the veterans groups.” This desire for an understanding community may drive veterans to join military organizations to find companionship. Initially, Verne was not interested in joining any military organizations and wanted to put this experience behind him. He did not join VFW or American Legion until 1990.
For the first couple of years after his service, Verne lived a hippy lifestyle in Panama City, Florida, taking odd jobs, hitchhiking from one place to another, and sleeping on friends’ couches. His young son is what encouraged him to pursue a different path.
“I remember calling my son on his birthday and he asked ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’” Verne described. This realization made him reconsider the example that he was setting for his son. Soon after, Verne moved to Kentucky to be closer to his son, who was living in Indiana with his mother.
Verne’s first “real” job after leaving the military was working as a Computer Operator at University of Louisville. This position called upon some of his experience with electronics gained from being in the army. In addition to his computer skills, he was also able to utilize another lesson learned from his experience.
The military “taught me self-confidence and not to be afraid just because I hadn’t done something before,” he said. He was certain in his ability to learn how to perform a task and be able to carry it out on his own, which led to a lot of on the job learning in his role.
Seeking a career change, Verne worked on houseboats and cabin cruisers before getting into crew work. After getting laid off from his work on ships, he tried out stage work, using the carpentry experience that he had gained from his job. After working on a couple of movies, Verne received his union card and has been working in the field full time since 1991. He started off as the “props guy” and loved the work enough to take on his current role.
Today, Verne is a proud member of the crew at Brown Theatre and has three sons who work in the same field. In addition to the life lessons he learned from his time in the army, he also appreciates the comradery that the military has provided. “You’re never alone,” he said, recalling a time when he recently met up with a former bunkmate.
Through personal and professional changes, Verne is able to call upon the lessons he learned while in the military: discipline, self-confidence, and the self-preservation to continue in the face of any challenge.