It’s just another Saturday night and a group of young women from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Lacey, Wash. are getting ready in the dressing room of the Bettie Bunker to compete in the sport they passionately love: Roller Derby.
Spectators with posters line up along the side of the track as the JBLM Bettie Brigade Team puts on their make-up, knee-pads and write each others’ player numbers on their arms. Both teams are introduced and the roller derby bout begins.
“Growing up I never played sports. I was very slow and kind of lazy but when I found roller derby it was something that I was good at and this sport is very empowering,” said U.S. Navy veteran Sarah Payne, a member of the team.
Just like Payne, all of the other Betties in the league have a relationship with the military. They’re active duty service women, veterans or military spouses. And while roller derby is a rough sport, the Betties sure know how to keep a community together.
“What I like the most about this team is that everyone has a military background. They are either spouses or active duty, or veterans so they all know what I’m going through and we all support each other when our husbands are gone. We help each other with our kids and it is just kind of a community that helps when you need something,” said Payne, a mother of four who is also known as “AdMinist’er Payne.”
The nonprofit league plays and practices at the Bettie Bunker, a warehouse in Lacey. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association has 160 member leagues and 87 leagues. However, like many military personal, the Betties change commands often and it is difficult to maintain an active roster in the league.
For the team members, being part of the team gives them a chance to feel empowered and have a ton of fun.
“It is a chance to let my inner childhood out”, said former U.S. Army MP Ricci Daniel Haggler, who is known as “Double Dee Moralizer.” “If you’re not watching you’re missing a whole lot of amazingnesss. It is awesome. It is crazy and it is wild and you’re going to want to do it.”
Staff Sgt. Melissa “Melicious Beast” Provencio, who has been in the U.S. Army for 14 years, joined the team in February and is currently in boot camp.
“When I came to the first practice, I loved what I saw and I joined,” Provencio said. “I like having this outlet. I’m a mom with three kids and I’m busy at work all the time and I needed something fun for myself.”
Another player is U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Sarah Sangster “Darth Saydious,” who enjoys having a place to release some stress from work.
“This team gets me away from all the stress at work. Once I get here I don’t worry about anything that has to do with work,” she says. “You can be anybody you want, be crazy, be weird and they accept you for who you are,” she said.
For those wondering about the nicknames, Payne said that is all about alter egos.
“Derby names are alter egos Payne says. You are yourself during the day and when you put on your uniform and bout make-up you become somebody else,” Payne said.
Their names go through a national database and no name is similar to any other roller derby player.
For Payne, being a member of the team lets her be a better person, she said. Having four children and a husband who is gone all the time “you get stressed. When you come to practice it lets me let loose and it helps me to be a better parent and a better wife and a better person all around.”
For Sangster, it is also important to have a bond with girls.
“It is a good thing to have female friends that know about the military,” she said. “It is hard to be a female in the military because the guys treat you like a guy and here I’m treated like a girl so it is a really bonding experience.”
Second Tour is an ABC News digital series profiling the lives of military veterans who are doing unique things in the civilian world. For more stories, click here
ABC News video editor Arthur Niemynski contributed to this report.