Red, white and blue. Kourtney Henderson is starting her senior year at Douglas High School with those colors emblazoned across her in everything she does whether it’s the cheerleading, soccer, band or the U.S. military.
Henderson is back in the Equality State after spending her summer in South Carolina for basic training — 10 and a half weeks of intensive preparation for a future in the National Guard. Every day started with an early wake up call, a quick meal and a day of intense study and practice.
Phase one, the red phase, focused on classroom study of procedure. Then the white phase, two mile walks to the rifle range for a day of target practice and then the same every day. Finally, the blue phase, the total testing of everything she learned from the previous phases.
Henderson has been in Douglas since the middle of her freshman year. She grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho and lived in a handful of towns there before coming to Wyoming and making it her home. Out in Ft. Jackson, she was the only Wyomingite — or so she thought. Her drill sergeant, Sgt. Marshall, not only called Wyoming home, but was born in Idaho as well.
Despite his well-regarded toughness in basic training, the two formed a strong bond in their time. Back at home, the bonds of activities and service link Henderson and Tim Painter, the school’s band teacher and a fellow military member. In a union of skills, the two are working to introduce military movements into the marching band routines.
Even with one more year of high school ahead of her, Henderson knows what she wants to study in college. She’s planning on majoring in psychology and getting her minor in criminal justice. She’s been interested in emotions and the brain as a whole for years. A self-described empath, Henderson decided that psychology was the right major for her.
The minor of criminal justice came just as organically, gaining interest in the field from her sister — a former police officer in Casper. In the military, Henderson found a Venn diagram of her skills and interests that set her on a path forward.
“It’s all three things that I’ve ever thought about doing, I can do in one.”
Even knowing what she’ll study in college, the where is still undecided, in that she’ll still have responsibilities with her National Guard unit here in Wyoming, she’s leaning toward a future as a Cowboy.
Having this foundation for the rest of her life will take away some of the usual stressors of someone starting their senior year of high school. Even with the National Guard as part of her present, Henderson’s goals for the next year are fundamentally high school.
She wants to get straight A’s. She wants to apply for and get as many scholarships as possible to go with money she’ll receive from the GI Bill. Henderson will be with the National Guard for the next 8 years.
At that point, Henderson will come across a three-pronged fork in the road. She’ll be able to re-enlist as active duty in the Army, to join the Army reserves or to stay in the National Guard. Even before picking her up from South Carolina, Michelle Miller was beyond proud of her daughter.
“She’s about the size of a pencil but she’s so dog-gone strong. She’s my flesh and blood, but she’s just so strong-willed with what she wants to do with her life,” she said.
Henderson still has nine months before graduating high school and moving on to college, but with basic training in the past, she’s even closer to the future. Henderson doesn’t take a break, she had a four-day summer vacation, and weaves her time and activities into a spider web of crossover skills.
The pure cardio of soccer and the military, the necessity of precise routines and movements in everything, calling cadences and group interaction all permeate through Henderson’s days as she strives to do the best for the people around her and for her future.
She may have only spent a few years in Douglas, but it is as much a home as anywhere for Henderson.
“Douglas is always going to be here. Douglas high school is always going to be here. Just because I’m not still here doesn’t mean I’m not a Bearcat.”
She’s as far along in her life as a high school senior can hope to be, but patrol is in the future. The pom poms, and soccer ball and bass drum, are her present.