Derby experience first for Soldier

Story by Spc. David Bolton, Public Affairs Specialist, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Kentucky National Guard Pfc. Kara Denise Bucklew, an MP with the 223rd Military Police Company stationed in Louisville, Ky., moves the winner’s trophy for the Kentucky Oaks race to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs May 4, 2012. (Photo by: Spc. David Bolton, Public Affairs Specialist, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky Army National Guard).

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—  Louisville’s legendary Churchill Downs hosted the Kentucky Derby May 6 for the 138th time – but for 19-year-old Pfc. Kara Denise Bucklew, a Military Policeman assigned to the 223rd Military Police Company, this was her first Run for the Roses.

“The experience has been quite enjoyable,” said Bucklew.  “I had the chance to meet a lot of different people and see a lot of different things that I would not normally get the chance to see if it weren’t for me being here with the Kentucky National Guard.”

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Kentucky Army Guardsman Pfc. Kara Denise Bucklew, an MP with the 223rd Military Police Company, guards the winner’s trophy for the Kentucky Derby in the Director’s Room on millionaire row at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. May 5, 2012.(Photo by: Spc. David Bolton, Public Affairs Specialist, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky Army National Guard).

As an MP, Bucklew was selected and charged with guarding the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby trophies on Millionaires Row. Valued at $200,000, according to Ronnie Dreistadt, educator at the Kentucky Derby Museum, the trophies are awarded to the owners of the Derby winner after what is known as the fastest two minutes in sports.

“I feel like it’s a great honor,” said Bucklew, “its something that a lot of people wish they could do but they haven’t been granted the opportunity, so I feel very lucky.”

Bucklew was in the Winner’s Circle as Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear presented the 18-karat trophy to the I’ll Have Another crew: J.Paul Reddam, owner, Doug O’Niell, trainer and Mario Gutierrez, jockey.

“It was awesome, I felt really important,” said Bucklew.

Bucklew also said Louisville’s Southern hospitality was in full force on Derby Day. “Everyone seems to want to come up and shake my hand and say ‘thank you for your service.”

Coming from a military background where both her father and grandfather served in the U.S. Navy, Bucklew, a JROTC graduate, was influenced by the prospects of joining the armed forces.

“I just fell in love with the military,” said Bucklew, “I’ve made a lot of friends in the National Guard and it’s definitely made me a more independent person.”

Bucklew said she is always enjoying new experiences in the National Guard.

“One thing is good and then the next time I’m doing something better.”