How Joining the Navy Saved My Life!
I was dangerously close to falling into a rut, which may have become my grave. I graduated high school the year Bill Clinton was elected president and, as in any election cycle, the media had the country convinced we were in an economic decline that we would never be able to climb out of. Come on, this is America; we turned it into an economic boom in just a few years. However, as an eighteen year old with A.D.D., college was definitely off my radar. So, without college, the talking heads were telling me I would be lucky to get a job at a fast food joint. The media, I don’t think, has ever been accused of being optimistic.
So there I was at the end of summer, all my friends were going off to college and I was going to be filling out stock boy applications. I didn’t know it, but my ship was on the horizon. Of course, I couldn’t see it because it was a submarine. After spending the night at a friend’s house, watching him pack for school, I got in my car and headed towards the mall. Only, I didn’t go and fill out a job application, I stopped at the Navy recruiters’ office and changed the course of my life.
Three days later, he had me up at the MEPS station. The last thing my mom told me before I left was, “Don’t sign anything!” The next day, when I was followed into the driveway by the recruiter and I stepped out of the car with a smile from ear to ear, my mom looked at my dad and said, “He signed.”
It was one of the best decisions of my life!
That’s not to say it was without challenges. I told my dad I was never going to have to do homework again. Boy was my world turned upside down, when I got to the boat and found out how much mandatory studying there was to do to earn my “dolphins” the submarine warfare pin. My dad would just laugh and laugh when I would gripe about Dink study. Being a NUB (a non-qual, or more appropriately, a Non-Useful Body) on a submarine was neither easy, nor fun (at least it didn’t seem that way at the time.) but I couldn’t imagine anything being more of a character builder. I’m sure this is how it is across all branches of the military.
Although, I may have put my life in jeopardy a few times with my practical jokes. The chiefs weren’t too happy when I replaced their sour cream with ice cream on taco day. I also had a near death experience with the Captain, when I painted my name on the submarine. It may not have been a brush with my physical death, but it was a close call with the life expectancy of my rank.
I did get over my practical joking ways when the boat sent me to Dive school. Making it through dive school was one of the toughest challenges of my life, but no single experience in my life required me to be as intensely focused as Dive School. It was a joint services Dive School that I had gone through, so I had the privilege of sharing the class with Air Force Pararescue (PJ’s), Forward Air Combat Controllers, and Marine Corps Combat Swimmers (Oorah brothers!) We even had a few instructors who were Army Divers.
I credit my time I spent earning my Silver Dolphins (Submarine Warfare Pin) and my graduation from dive school as the foundation for the intense drive I have used throughout my professional life after the Navy.
But it all comes down to the friends…
While the drive and the experiences I had in the Navy are irreplaceable, nothing compares to the brotherhood that goes well beyond friendship, which was forged in the Navy. When you spend every waking minute with a group of 120 guys in the space equal to a three bedroom house and you don’t kill each other, that’s when you know you are true friends. I love the times when I get a chance to visit with old Navy buddies. Even if it’s just for a dinner, we can always pick up the conversation as if we were still on deployment. My brothers from the Navy were my inspiration for writing Hot Run. While it is an action adventure story, at the heart of it, it is about the friendships you forge in the military service.
So if you are a parent, and your child is coming to you talking of joining the military; I’m sure it can be scary, but there are some experiences in this life money cannot buy. There are friendships that cannot be replaced and the military offers those.
Have a great day and while I support the Army wholeheartedly 364 days a year, today I have to say, “Go Navy, Beat Army!”
~T. Steven Sullivan