PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents CSSN David Leasure’s legacy of his military service from 2011 to 2015. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life. Start recording your own Military Memories HERE.
Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Navy.
When I was little, my uncle used to talk about his experiences in the Navy, and he joined before Vietnam kicked off because he saw the writing on the wall. At MEPS, guys were lined up, and a man with a clipboard in his hands went down the row and assigned each individual to a branch, “Army, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Army, Army.”
He used to talk about how he got to go to Sasebo, Japan, for a port visit. I thought that was so cool and how awesome it would be to visit Japan.
When I was a Junior in high school, I was sitting in Pre-Calculous daydreaming. All of a sudden, it dawned on me that next year I would be a Senior, and then I would be on my own. What would I do? What were my plans?
In Elementary school, my friend Collin talked to me about how his parents put money away for college. I went home and asked my mom if we had money being put away for college.
“Of course not.”
I didn’t want to have student debt. For some reason, I was completely averse to school loans, so I thought, “Well, the navy pays for school.”
On top of that, there would be an adventure; I could see the world and save some money.
I actually had an idea of what I wanted to go to school for.
After making my decision- in a span of five minutes- after class, I walked down the hallway and saw a bulletin board on the wall. On the bottom were two posters side-by-side: Acting school on the left and the Navy on the right.
I guess sometimes you got to do what you need to do before you get to do what you want to do.
Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?
I was trying to get out of Dodge quickly. My ASVAB score wasn’t fantastic. 57. I took a practice test, and my recruiter frowned. “You’ll do better on the actual test, and people always do better on the actual test.”
I got the same score.
At MEPS, I failed my depth perception, and I couldn’t understand what the heck the lady was talking about. Four seconds severely impacted four years of my life. Things might have been much different if she had slowed down just a little bit.
Before I signed my contract, my recruiter slid me a piece of paper. “This will be your job.”
He placed his other hand on a pile next to him. “Because you failed your depth perception, you weren’t able to get these jobs.”
I looked at the paper. “Cook?”
I was in disbelief.
The recruiter could see the anguish on my face and basically read my mind.
“If you leave now, I can’t guarantee anything else. I can’t guarantee that we can get you in.”
He had me by the, you know.
“Look, you do two years, and you can cross-rate, easy.”
But it’s not easy. Cross-rating is very difficult to do in the Navy.
I decided to join anyway. I wanted to get out of my hometown so bad it didn’t bother me if I had to wait two years to cross-rate.
But it was hard. Being a cook in the Navy was one of the hardest things I did in my life. Not so much because of the job, per se, but because of the people. The people were a nightmare, and because I wasn’t good at being a cook, they made my life a living hell.
After A school, I went home for two weeks of leave.
After that, I went to my duty station in Atsugi, Japan. I worked primarily in the galley in port, and on deployment, I worked in the ship’s galley, which is a friggin nightmare.
Back on shore, I started to do other jobs. I was JOD (Jack of the door) for a time, distributing material for the galley. That wasn’t bad.
After the next deployment, I worked in the barracks. That was even better. That’s what the CSs aspired to on shore. If you worked in the barracks, you made it. It was a privilege. The reason they put me there was because I was doing so poorly in the galley, I think. Either way, I was happy to be out of there.
After my last deployment, I worked with a guy named Lou, and we delivered (or returned) appliances to/from sailors living on and off base. Things like refrigerators, washing machines, drying machines, microwaves, and things like that. I liked that job; it was my favorite.
Lou was a retired Chief, a cook in the Navy like me. But you didn’t know it was talking to him. He was a cool guy, and we got along great. I don’t consider many people friends in my life, but Lou, I would consider a friend.
I remember one point, we were delivering a refrigerator to this girl’s apartment,t and as we were unloading the truck in Japan, I thought to myself, “You know, I could do this forever.”
But this was on overseas pay and not having to worry about things like bills and rent. Lou had real-life problems, which meant real-life bills, so he probably thought differently about it than I did. In fact, I know he did because he often said how the money he was paid didn’t go far and how expensive Japan was.
It’s amazing how young and naive I was in the Navy. But again, the Navy paid me just to be there, and I had no wife or kids.
I had put in for cross-rating, but my Command was kicking it around. They didn’t even know I existed half the time because I was TAD on shore to the galley and TAD to the ship at sea.
I got “lucky” in A school and was one of three people in my class who got chosen for a squadron. I had no idea what that meant at the time. Was I going to be flipping eggs on a plane?
Before I got out, my YNC said everything was good to go for the cross-rating. They were trying to incentivize me to stay in. But my YNC didn’t even remember what I wanted to cross-rate to. I had mentioned OS once, and he thought that’s what I wanted, but I told the CMC that I wanted to be a part of the actual squadron. I had eyes on AE or something like that. I wanted to be on the flight deck.
In the end, they told me there wasn’t any guarantee with the cross-rate. That I had to re-enlist first and maybe get the job later.
Maybe get the job later.
I decided to turn down that deal and just get out. Besides, many people left, and right of me was getting kicked out for petty reasons. One guy almost got kicked out because a Master Chief went into his room without his permission. The sailor (who I worked with) said, “Master Chief, you can’t be in here without my permission.” Because of that, he almost got kicked out. But because he had connections, he was able to stay in.
If you don’t have a click or you don’t have connections, if something happens, you’re gone. That’s what happened to a friend of mine. The same 1stClasss who stood up for the other guy completely derailed my friend when he got in trouble. At Captain’s Mast, they said he was a piece of crap, never showed up for work, and on and on. Whoever was in charge of that hearing, I think it was the base’s Admiral, threw the book at him. Luckily he was able to get out with an Honorable Discharge under General Conditions.
When we were riding home after dropping him off at the airport (I went along too because he was my friend,) they said, “It’s a shame what happened to him.” “Yeah, a real shame.” Like they had nothing to do with it. They were the ones who ended his career. He had a real hard time after getting out, especially since he planned to stay in for his twenty years. He wasn’t prepared for a situation like that.
I decided life in the Navy was a gamble, so I got out. When sailors are getting kicked out for petty reasons, it makes you paranoid; at least, it did for me. It’s something that still bothers me, and I wish I could have done more. But at least I got to come home in one piece. That’s more than a lot of people can say.
If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?
I never operated in combat or peacekeeping operations. Not that I’m aware of. A lot of what we did underway was “classified.” As my Skipper used to say, “We turn big rocks into little rocks.”
But we did participate in a humanitarian exercise. In 2013 the Philippines had been hit by Typhoon Haiyan, and we went there to deliver relief supplies and deploy aircraft for search and rescue missions in what was Operation Damayan.
Damayan is a Filipino word that means “to console,” “to empathize with the other,” or “to be a part of” a certain unfortunate or unforeseen event. This comes from the local practice of helping one’s neighbor who might be in great need.
I didn’t participate personally, but I was given a humanitarian medal because I was on the ship. There was even a coin I bought that was being sold on the mess decks.
Whenever I’m in the Philippines, I get sick. One of my first deployments and port visits was to Manila. A few buddies in the squadron and I went to stay in a hotel. On the way, there was a mini-mart or convenience store. We stopped to get some drinks, and I picked up a few beers.
After I drank them, I got really sick.
When we stopped to help in the Philippines for the humanitarian effort, I got sick again and didn’t even get off the ship!
Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.
The whole time I was in the military, I didn’t think I was going to survive. It’s a miracle I made it through. I endured endless hazing, hate crimes, and racism.
I didn’t know how to endure anxiety, and I was really young. I had no idea how to operate or really even talk to people. If it wasn’t for a few guys I met in South Korea, I don’t know if I would have made it through.
I’m not a religious person; I’m spiritual. But my father was religious, and I know he prayed like hell for me. I think that helped a lot, and I know it did.
My military service sucked. But it also had a lot of blessings. A part of the problem was, again, I was so young and didn’t know how to navigate life’s problems. The Navy was the first real-time I stepped off the porch, and I was a complete fish out of water.
I wish I had had better mentors and people to look up to, to guide me in the right direction while I was in. But because I was TAD all the time, I practically didn’t exist in my Command. They called us the “stepchildren.”
It might seem trivial or crass, but I suffered a lot in the military. I didn’t endure combat, but with some of the things I went through, I would have gladly traded my position. I sacrificed a lot.
So when people serve their country, it’s more than just serving in combat situations. Sacrifice comes in all forms. I don’t take people serving in the military lightly. Whether they were shooting a gun or unclogging toilets, it’s tough.
I feel like, being out, people think that service is only really a service if you were shooting at someone, but probably only one percent of the military goes into combat. Anybody who serves sacrifices a lot, and they sacrifice everything. That’s why it bothers me to see all these organizations helping veterans but only helping them if they went through combat. It makes you feel like you didn’t serve at all, which just adds to the tension.
Everybody serves. If you enlist and do your duty, everybody serves.
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
I was put in a squadron but was TAD to a ship. TAD means temporary assigned duty. I was put in the squadron VFA-195, the Dambusters. They were given that name because they blew up a vital damn of the enemy in WWII, and I believe that’s how the story goes.
The ship I was attached to be (that’s the grammar checker on here– aargh, matey!) the USS George Washington. It was a nightmare, and they– the sailors– called it the Gdub.
The Command on the Gdub was shit. There was a lot of inside peddling and people doing what they weren’t supposed to do. It was truly dog-eat-dog. The FSO (food service officer), who was in charge of all the CSs and the galleys, got into trouble for selling classified information to civilians about port visits– he and many other high-ranking officers. It was called the Fat Leonard Scandal or something like that. I learned of it after I got out. A lot of people got into trouble. Guess karma caught up to him; he didn’t care at all about the CSs; he ran the galleys like slave plantations. All he cared about was looking good in front of everyone else on the ship. “Oh yes, we’re happy to serve you!”
Even though the ship was an absolute nightmare, I am prouder of that than my squadron.
I was surprised by this revelation myself when I got out.
Because it was hard.
Because it was hard, and I had endured it.
But it wasn’t the ship’s fault; it was the crew. So, I have a fondness for the ship.
The USS George Washington was commissioned on July 04, 1992. How cool is that? The Fourth of July and in the same year I was born? It was supposed to be decommissioned when I got out, but the Navy decided to keep it. They put it in to dry dock and fixed it up.
I take a lot of pride in that ship.
I was meant to be on it; we were destined for each other.
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
I really miss Japan. Just sitting on the train and watching the buildings go by, especially during sunset when you see the reflections on the houses, those are some of my fondest memories. All of my friends mostly wanted to drink on the weekend, so it was just Me, Myself, and I, and I called it “exploring.”
After my friend Anthony left, I was introduced to a group on base called JATA, which stands for Japanese American Tomodachi Association. The word Tomodachi is “friend” in Japanese.
The group would get together every Tuesday and Thursday around 1800. I believe that is correct.
On base, we would sometimes go out to restaurants to eat. There were Japanese friends of the base, new sailors like me, older sailors, and retired military who were a part of the group. It was a great way to break out of your shell and meet new people. It was also a big help for the culture shock as an eighteen-year-old in a foreign country brand new to the military.
JATA would plan weekend trips, and we would pick a place and meet at the train station. We went to Odaiba, Yokohama, and a few other places. I deleted my Facebook a few years back because Facebook was getting out of hand, but I was friends with a lot of these people there. The Japanese were cool and friendly, as was everyone, and I met a lot of nice people there.
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
I can’t say that I’m really proud of any professional achievement in my military career at this time; I would like to be someday. But I do have a personal achievement.
During a break between one of the cruises, we could climb Mt. Fuji with some members of the squadron. You can only go in the summer months because later in the year it becomes too snowy and you probably need a special permit. I remember one of our lead pilots, a really cool guy, went. My friend and his girlfriend went as well. You arrive at the base in a sort of parking lot when you get there. There is a store there too with souvenirs. When you’re looking at the mountain, you think, that’s not too bad. It takes a while until you start climbing it; I think it took me six hours to climb. And it’s not a clear staircase to the top. There are some paths, but there’s also a lot of sheer climbing on the side of the thing. I had moments where I was like, this is kind of stupid. One guy I passed was frozen. His buddy tried to persuade him to keep moving, but his leg shook like a jackhammer. I just used his head as a stepping stone, “Excuse me!” No, I’m just kidding. But I did have to go around them. Dog-eat-dog. Every man for himself. I was going to climb with my friend and his girlfriend, but immediately when we started walking to the base, I realized this would not be possible. They were casually walking and chatting. My CO said, “If you guys aren’t at the base of the mountain at ** ** hours, you’ll have to find your own way back to base.” So I had to hustle.
At the souvenir shop at the base of Fuji, they sell poles or staffs. They’re blank and made of wood. You take them up the mountain and get a burned stamp at each checkpoint. Each stamp is unique to where you are on the mountain. As I got closer to the top, the weather completely changed, or rather, the geological conditions of where I was on the mountain changed. It was super windy, like a small tornado. You could barely see because dust and rocks were blowing in your eyes. It was kind of scary, plus it was dark. I climbed these rock steps that reached the summit. There’s a building at the top like it’s been waiting for you. When you go in, it’s a sort of restaurant. I think I had some soup. But I was able to get some pictures of myself at the top. I’m glad I was, and I’m not even sure who took them; someone from my squadron, maybe? I remember they said we needed to take “oxygen” for the climb, little canisters, but I never needed them.
On the climb down, I thought, “This will be a piece of cake, hard parts over!” So I walked down this path (much easier climbing down the mountain than climbing up). And I’m descending and descending and descending for, like, three hours. In the middle of this, a thought popped into my head– our CO told us that if we climbed down the wrong side of the mountain, we’d be on the other side of Tokyo. Oh crap, am I climbing down the wrong side of this thing? But when I got down, it turned out to be alright. Buses were waiting for us. When I got in, I didn’t see my friend. I thought, oh no if he and his girlfriend don’t make it, they’ll have to find their own way back. But after a little while, maybe forty-five minutes to an hour, they finally showed up. The CO did a head count. I think a few words were exchanged about where it is so, but ultimately we pressed on. Whoever was left behind could get back with no problem. It’s Japan; there are trains everywhere.
Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?
No award, medal, formal presentation, qualification, or any other memorabilia could be as important to me as the birthday card my commanding officer gave to me on my birthday.
One day I had to run an errand on the ship (I was always running around). When I returned to the galley, someone told me a person was looking for me. “An officer, someone high-ranking.” They handed me a card. The card read, “Thank you for serving on your special day.” The Skipper signed it. I was so low on the totem pole of rank I wasn’t even on it, yet the Commanding Officer of my squadron somehow knew and remembered my birthday, came down (as super busy as he was), and gave me that card. I still have that card. It meant the world to me and still does.
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?
I met a good friend of mine in Japan, Anthony Grajalez, after he’d been accepted into a squadron and sent to NAF Atsugi. We got along really great and hung out a lot in Japan. Anthony was as enthusiastic about Japan as I was; not only that, but he was one of the few people in our class that got picked for a squadron, so we were practically in the same boat together. In A School, they gave us a “Wish List.” They sit everyone down in a room and pass around a piece of paper. You list from top to bottom where you would like to get stationed. First, then second, etc. Well, obviously, for me, I chose Japan, which was number one on my list. I guess it was for Anthony too. Many guys in the room wanted East Coast or West Coast, but the Navy said, “You’re going to Japan, too!” It’s great when you get what you want, but those guys didn’t, unfortunately.
In Japan, Anthony and I would run around on our “excursions.” At one point, we were in Kawasaki, and it was Christmas time, so everything was lit up really nice, and we were walking past a fountain that came to life in a light and music show playing the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m happy to say I got a video of that. I actually took a lot of videos on our excursions. So much so that it pissed Anthony off when we were running late for a train. “Put that damn camera down!”
Anthony got the shaft. About a few months after his arrival, his squadron decided to up and leave for San Diego. This upset Anthony greatly, and it upset me too. No one after that point was as enthusiastic about going off base and exploring with me as Anthony was.
I think the Navy changed Anthony a lot. We were friends on Facebook for a time, but we didn’t talk much. It’s kind of like when you go through an experience and don’t say much about it. But I appreciate our time in those early days because we were both young and innocent, not yet entirely corrupted by the military. We may not talk much now, but those memories are very important to me, and I’m glad I have them.
List the names of old friends you served with, at which locations, and recount what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.
I met three of my very good friends while on a port visit to South Korea. I had gone on an MWR tour and was just feeling miserable. I felt like death. I thought I was going to die in the Navy. It was a few weeks into my first deployment. After some walking around, I got back on the bus. As I was sitting there, these guys were talking in the back of the bus, joking around, having a good ol’ time. I don’t know how it happened, but I somehow turned around. We started talking, and that was it. Like recognizing people, you knew from a past life. For the next four years, while I was in Japan, we hung out, drank together, celebrated birthdays, cooked dinners for Thanksgiving, and gave presents for Christmas. They were my family away from my family. They are my family. We still talk. They stayed in. I got out. But we see each other occasionally, though not as much as I would like.
Girlfriends have come and gone, but what hasn’t is the boys, the four amigos. I often referred to myself as the D’Artagnan, or Sid from the tv show Recess because I was the youngest and newest in the group.
Can you recount a particular incident from your service, which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?
When we first sat down to eat in boot camp, I was shooting the shit with the guys around me. I was one dumb peg. I thought it was high school, and we could just talk like lunch. The guys around me all had their eyeballs popping out of their sockets and looked scared as shit, “What’s the problem?” I asked. “WHO THE FUCK IS TALKING OVER HERE!?” It was our GM1, the head of our Division. It was the first time I thought I knew where I was. “Oh shit, this isn’t Kansas anymore.” A few days later, I’m sitting in that same mess hall enjoying a fine meal the Navy provided me. As I’m scooping the last peas and mashed potatoes with a knife onto my fork, GM1 comes over to me. “WHAT’S YOUR NAME!?” “Um, um, Leasure, Petty Officer!” “ARE YOU ORGANIZED?” The question dumbfounded me. Organized? “Organized, Petty Officer?” “YOU’RE NEAT AND ORDERLY!?” He was looking at my knife and fork form. “Oh, erm, yes, Petty Officer!” “FROM NOW ON, YOU’RE OUR FORWARD HOLD!” “Oh, er, Yes, Petty Officer!” He sauntered off. Forward Hold? What the fuck is that?
Forward Hold is essentially the janitor closet in the Division. Because GM1 had seen how meticulously I was scooping peas onto my fork, he assumed I was neat and organized. I was. Good eye. I kept that place immaculately clean. I took great pride in it. I still do. If you put me back in that position today, I’d still care for that little closet. I actually surprised myself with how accustomed I became to it. Like a lot of things in boot camp that don’t make sense, we were meant to use the Forward Hold to retrieve cleaning supplies while simultaneously keeping it outstandingly clean. Like brushing your teeth with toothpaste without ever being allowed to squeeze out the toothpaste. But I was still having to use the toothpaste. Occasionally, I was given an “assistant,” but these guys often fell short of my expectations.
One night I was woken up at 2 AM by this Monster. Having been ripped out of sleep in the middle of the night and not knowing where I was, this Monster–I soon realized it was a neighboring RDC– was kicking the can out of me. Someone. SOME DUMB LOW LIFE SCUM had gone into the Forward Hold after hours and fudged things up. I think a greenie weenie was turned slightly at an angle or something. I was mad. Positioned outside MY Forward Hold with fluorescent lights shining down on me doing pushups, I vowed things were going to be different in the morning. The next day I disbanded all assistants. No one was allowed in the Forward Hold without my explicit permission.
In A School, we were sent to Fort Lee, VA. The A School used to be in Great Lakes, but they moved it. Lucky for us, it was in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully for Virginia, they had taxis all around. (They still do; I was just there). Our options of things to do were limited. There was the mall. Of course, there were some other things to do, but to a group of bored sailors on the weekend, what’s wrong with going to the mall?
We all agreed- this group of merry men- to see a movie. We were all friends from class and got along well. After the movie was over, we stepped outside into the parking lot. It was night. Not a single car was in sight. Normally you could flag down a taxi, but there were none. We had to muster by a certain time, maybe 2100. We knew we were late. So we called the duty phone. Somebody picked up, and we explained our situation. “Please hold on one moment.” The phone was handed to someone else. “Hello?!” Oh shit, it was CS2 Caruthers.
CS2. He was a bad dude. Originally a Chief, he got into a bar fight with a bunch of First Classes who were pissing him off and beat them to a pulp. The Navy decided he could stay in, but he would be bumped down a few ranks. Salt and pepper hair growled when he talked. He took sadistic pleasure in punishing us during PT. He’d stare at us with his beaded eyes, Monster in hand going, “Yeaaahhhhhh” to the cadence.
“Oh, hi, CS2. We, um, we’re gonna be a bit late. You see, there are no taxis around, and…”
“YOU BETTER GET HERE QUICK.” Click.
We all stood there for a moment and stared at each other in stunned disbelief. Then we all started busting out laughing. We were laughing so hard we were toppling over each other.
It was the funniest moment of my life. I still don’t know how we got back or what happened to us afterward.
The gentleman in the photo: (Far left) My roommate. Then Lopez Ortega (back). Hell of a guy. Passed away from cancer, sadly. Then me (front). Then, the gentleman who was supposed to be a linguist didn’t pass and was sent to us (second from right). Very smart. Then finally, Arakelyan (far right). He was from Kazakhstan. Hilarious dude. Used to get into so many fights with people in our class. He was usually right in the argument. He was in the Kazakhstan Army, then joined the U.S. Navy. He had crazy stories to tell.
What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? if you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?
I’m a creative individual. As stated in the first reflection, I originally joined the Navy to go to acting school. Somewhere along the way, I got lost, but it’s still something I aspire to. I also enjoy writing. I have been fortunate to perform in a few plays while I lived in Indiana, PA (where Jimmy Stewart is from) as part of a local theatre called the Indiana Players. While there, I did two plays– Don’t Drink the Water by Woody Allen, directed by a good friend of mine. The other California Suite by Neil Simon. The second play was much more fun because I had many more lines. I was just the butler in Don’t Drink the Water.
As I said, I’m still working on this. Hopefully, someday in the future, I can do more. Until then, I’ll keep doing my best.
What military associations are you a member of, if any? what specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?
I tried joining the VFW once, but it’s hard when you’re a young veteran. No offense to the other guys, but they’re all old vets from the Vietnam war. I just didn’t fit it.
I use the VA.
I worked at the Navy Exchange (I’m not sure if this counts).
I know, too, that as a veteran, I get into National Parks for free. That’s a pretty cool perk.
I should probably join more organizations, but I don’t know where to start. I also don’t really feel like my military service is over; maybe that’s why I have a hard time transitioning. When you join an organization, it’s almost as if you’re saying, “Yup. It’s officially over.”
In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?
Serving in the Navy was certainly a slap in the face. I didn’t realize how small or gullible I was until I joined. The relentless psychological torture I endured from the people I worked with didn’t help either. It took a while for that burning lava to cool after I got out. Only then was I able to sit down and analyze it.
I don’t believe in bullying. But I’m glad I endured it because now I can relate and sympathize with people who have. Bullying, hazing, hate crimes, whatever you want to call it, it’s the same thing.
I certainly keep my military bearing. And I tend to keep my military haircut, especially in the summer months.
What I miss about my time in the service is the respect rendered to people. I love walking down the road to admin on base, passing an officer, and saluting him. That stuff doesn’t exist in the civilian world. Sure there were some as!holes, but there were some great people too. I often tell people I met some of the best people I would ever meet in my life in the Navy, and I met some of the worst people I am embarrassed to say actually exist.
People ask me, “Did you like it?” I respond with this: My time in the Navy was 99% bad and 1% good. But that 1% is very special to me, unlike anything in the civilian world. It is a completely unique experience. It was hard, but I did it. True, I wish I did it better, but there it is. That’s another big thing I’m proud of– I finished. I did my contract. I didn’t get out early or medically separate. I got out on the day I was supposed to get out. I did my time. And I’m happy about that.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Navy?
I would say stand up for yourself. As a sailor turned civilian, it wasn’t until after I got out that I saw how much I was pushed around. You are a person, and the people in charge of you are people, and they aren’t God. If someone is speaking to you inappropriately, stand up for yourself. Don’t take anyone’s shit.
Know what you want and stick with it. Don’t let anyone talk you out of what you want, whether that be a job or a post.
Appreciate the time that you’re in. It might suck right now, and you might hate your life, but these are moments that you are going to remember for the rest of your life. Be your best self in these moments.
Do everything you can. Get your warfare qualifications and pin. Make rank. Go to school. Don’t just waste your time drinking. This isn’t just a chapter in your life; it is a stepping stone. Try to overcome your laziness.
This should go without saying, but if you make rank, don’t be an asshole. Don’t let it go to your head. People who let rank go to their heads and boss people around are small-minded people. Don’t be like them. Rise. Rise to the occasion and help everyone, people above you and below you. Treat everyone with kindness and respect.
Take pictures and make videos of your experiences. One day you will want to look back on them. Have something for yourself.
If you go on deployment, get a “Cruise Book.” If you don’t already know, it’s like a school yearbook for your deployment.
Go on more MWR trips.
Explore. Explore as much as you can the countries you visit, are deployed to, and stationed.
Cherish your deployments. They might suck, but that makes them that much sweeter in the end.
I remember talking to a guy who was going on deployment soon after I got out. I believe he was in the Army Reserves and was pissed because he was getting deployed. His recruiter told him the chances were slim to none. He wasn’t childish, actually mature. I told him to appreciate his deployment. I told him to appreciate it because it would be a significant moment in his life that might not ever happen again. After we were done talking, I like to think I set his mind at ease, and he went into that deployment with his head held higher.
Recently I met a young gentleman who is new in his navy adventure. It is certainly interesting to me being his friend because now I am older, and he is where I was when I was in the Navy. I’m the salty old dog who tries to part some wisdom, and he’s the young gun full of innocence. It’s almost like looking back at my younger self; that’s why I’m so hard on him. I just want him to do better than I did.
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
It has certainly helped me think back on occasions and situations with specific questions.
The specific questions really help you to dig deeper into your past.