Sacrifices remembered

Ron Burtz
Retired U.S. Army colonel Terry DeRouchey of Hot Springs spent 30 years of his military career shuttling his wife and children to assignments at various places around the globe. So, when he thinks about Veterans Day, his thoughts go to the sacrifices not only of those who have served, but of their loved ones as well. 
“I think of the guys who are all over the world,” says DeRouchey, “whether it’s on Veterans Day or on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, pulling duty somewhere and hoping that somebody’s thinking of them back on the mainland.
“When you’re pulling duty, whether it’s in a foxhole somewhere or you’re at your base or you’re out on deployment, you have a lot of time to think,” said DeRouchey. “Usually everybody’s celebrating those days and you’re left there to think, ‘What am I doing here? What’s it costing me?’”
DeRouchey knows well those costs. In his 35 years in uniform, he moved his family about every three years, taking assignments in such diverse locations as Korea, Cold War Germany, Argentina and Venezuela. He even spent a year and a half working at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.  
“We did 18 moves in 30 years,” says DeRouchey. “That’s a lot to ask a woman to do.”
He also says the moving was hard on his son, Joe, and daughter, Garland, who went to three different high schools and graduated in a foreign country. 
Born in Huron and graduating from high school in Phoenix, Ariz., DeRouchey got rejected in his first application to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, so he joined the Arizona Army National Guard. 
His second application to West Point was accepted after he received a nomination from Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater.
Entering the academy in 1974 and graduating in 1978, DeRouchey went to Airborne and Army Ranger School and then began his 30 years of service with the infantry, starting as a second lieutenant and retiring as a full colonel.
Near the end of his service, while DeRouchey was working at the Pentagon, he put in for retirement, but one day received a call asking him to go to Argentina to teach a war college course. 
DeRouchey, who speaks fluent Spanish, said he would first need to check with his wife, Leanne, who he assumed was tired of being bounced around by the military. 
To his surprise, she responded, “Yeah, I’d love to go.” He says over the years she had become accustomed to the nomadic life of a military family. 
That was not to be their final move, either. After over a year in Argentina, DeRouchey accepted an assignment to Caracas, Venezuela, where he spent over three years teaching classes at the infantry school. 
DeRouchey, who had previously been assigned to the South American country in 1989, says he got to see the nation before and after the rise of communist strongman Hugo Chavez. 
“So I got to experience it twice,” says DeRouchey. “Once when it was kind of sane and the second time when it was kind of going crazy.”
DeRouchey says the first time he worked in Venezuela, it was a showplace for an emerging democracy in the Southern Hemisphere with a thriving economy because of oil revenues and “making really great progress.”
“The second time, Chavez was trying to socialize everything and I got to see the deterioration of a lot of institutions like the military and the parliament,” said DeRouchey.  
His last assignment was teaching at the Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., for a year and a half. 
Having purchased property in Hot Springs in 2005 (Partly because it’s the warmest place in South Dakota which was important to Tennesee-raised Leanne), DeRouchey retired and moved to the Black Hills to await a life-saving liver transplant made necessary by a genetic liver disease. 
After the successful transplant surgery in Omaha in September 2010, DeRouchey felt well enough by the next spring to do volunteer work. 
Answering a plea for volunteer drivers to transport injured veterans from the VA in Hot Springs to Crazy Horse for a work therapy program, the retired colonel started making daily trips to the memorial.
There he met Ruth Ziolkowski, whom he refers to as “Mrs. Z,” who approached him with an offer of employment. 
“Why don’t you just drive the guys up here to work as part of their work therapy and stay here and work and then you can drive them back all in one round trip,” Ziolkowski asked. 
The idea appealed to DeRouchey who worked several May-to-October seasons until Ziolkowski asked him to stay a couple of months longer, which he did a couple more years. 
Then one year in January, Ziolkowski asked him to work full time at Crazy Horse. 
“Mrs. Z, I think you’ve got me working full-time,” laughed DeRouchey. He has been working there every day since. 
But Crazy Horse is not DeRouchey’s only tie to Custer. He became a lifetime member of the Custer VFW and earlier this year he was chosen to be grand marshal of the Patriots Parade July 4. 
DeRouchey says one of the things he appreciates about the Black Hills community is the way the schools and towns go “all out” for Veterans Day.
From having assemblies involving everyone in kindergarten through 12th grade to inviting vets to have a free lunch at school, DeRouchey says, “They do a great job of getting the whole school involved.   Every school and every little town has something where the community has an event where most of the people attend.” 
Another service to veterans about which DeRouchey is passionate is Custer’s Operation Black Hills Cabin which offers a week-long respite to qualifying wounded veterans from the Iraq/Afghanistan campaigns and their families at little or no expense to them.
“To take the worries and anxieties off the veteran and his family for a week and show them a good time,” says DeRouchey, “I think that’s great!”
For his part, DeRouchey has spearheaded a program which collects donated tickets so the veterans can take a van ride to the top of the mountain carving. 
“For the last couple of years we’ve been able to gather enough donated van ride tickets to take every [Black Hills Cabin] veteran to the top,” he says.
DeRouchey is glad to have an opportunity to help other veterans get their lives back on track after an injury or other trauma, which sometimes amounts to just listening to their stories without prying. 
“They’ll talk when they’re ready,” he says. 

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