In February of 2003, I enlisted in the US Navy. I would like to say I had lofty dreams of patriotic to country, but it was not the case. It was survival for me. I was not the big strapping guy growing up. I was actually thin as a rail for many years in my life. I was not a straight A student like some of my siblings. No one in my family pictured me as someone wearing a uniform. The only thing I had going for me was discipline.
My father believes in discipline and he still does. My mother was a very disciplined woman for her sixty eight years on earth. However my parents did not have a military background. I grew up aspiring to be a priest actually, but I never got the calling to be a priest. Some of my friends became priests, but I did not become one. At the age of twenty two, I went to Great Lakes, Illinois for basic training. Basic Training in the Navy is designed to build and reveal characters. For nine weeks, I pushed myself beyond limits I did not know I had in basic training. As I said earlier, I was not the strongest guy physically. I was five feet nine inches, and I weighed 164 lbs. However, I was not deterred by many things. I was stubborn prior to basic training. I had to change my attitude to make it in basic training. I had to relearn the concept of discipline. I had to understand that reason behind a chain of command, and why there is a structure in the military. I figured these concepts, time was serving me. Basic training was actually enjoyable. I then went to what was called ‘A’ school to become a Gas System Turbine Technician (electrical). It was a long period of training, but it was enjoyable again.
In January 2004, I reported to the USS John S. McCain in Yokosuka, Japan. My first few months on this Steel Structure had their challenges, but the ship became my home. We spent of most of the time in the middle of the pacific ocean. We trained at sea for most of the time. It was repetitive needless to say. Then in March of 2004, we went on deployment in the Pacific Ocean. We met with the South Korean Navy, and we partook in various joint exercises with the Korean. I visited Seoul, Incheon and few other South Korean towns. I had my first taste of Korean food. It cleaned my gastrointestinal system, but I got used to it. After my units’ time with the Korean we then headed south to Pattaya Thailand. If anyone has ever watched the “Hangover 2”, the movie is an accurate representation of Thailand. We were the “Ugly American”. As our time in Thailand came to an end. We continued further South past the equator to Darwin, Australia. We were in Australia during the Anzac celebration weekend. I consumed a ridiculous amount of beer with my shipmates. Along the way, I was making checking boxes in my bucket list. When our time in Australia concluded; we then went to Guam and Saipan. In Saipan, I tried my hands at golf, snorkeling, and go kart racing. I prefer snorkeling and go kart racing. We then returned to Yokosuka, Japan.
In 2005, We started our year with exercises at sea. We found ourselves in Korea on multiple occasions, but the highlight for me were the trips in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. We found ourselves going to Korea, because the threat from North Korea was rising again. We patrolled the Sea of Japan and we communicated with South Korean and Japanese forces. I advanced in rank that year, and it was not a bad year professionally. I visited Kowloon and Fenwick in Hong Kong. I saw a very clean city in Singapore, and I had a good exchange in Lankawi, Malaysia.
The year 2006 was my final year in Japan. I started the year with a newfound love for physical fitness. I was spending my time at the gym after work. I ended up putting a lot of muscle on my body, but I also ended up in a Japanese emergency room. In march of 2006, I visited the city of Dong Hae. It was not a glamorous town like Seoul, Chin Hae, or Incheon. It was a small industrial town on the Korean Peninsula. I went hiking on a small mountain there. It was fun and easy, because my level of fitness felt great to me. A few months later, I decided to take on Mount Fuji. The climb uphill was challenging, but I had tricked myself into believing that I could make it to the summit no matter the obstacles in my way. At eight thousand feet above sea level, I met my limit. I recall waking up in an Ambulance on my way to the hospital. The attendants at the hospital did not speak any English, but there were some people who did. I got the help that I needed and I was back on my feet a few days later. The year concluded peacefully.
In 2007, I went to ‘C’ school before reporting to my next command in Norfolk, Virginia. I spent two and a half months in Great Lakes, Illinois. I was complaining again about the midwest winter. I took a month of leave to spend time with my family. I enjoyed that time, then I reported to the USS Stout in Norfolk. I had my share of friends and detractors on the Stout. We trained and did many things, then in July of 2007 we went on deployment. It took us about a week to reach the Mediterranean Sea. We stopped on the island of Sardinia. After our stop in Italy, we crossed the Suez Canal. It is not a fun activity needless to say. After the transit on the Suez Canal we participated in the Iraqi Freedom. Then we patrolled the Horn of Africa for a few months, our days consisted of chasing Somali pirates and rescuing stranded ships in the Arabian Sea. We journeyed to the Seychelles Islands at one point. It was quite an enjoyable trip. We spend five months at sea.
These years were great times in one’s life. My catholic faith was my foundation during this period in my life. The discipline ingrained in me for many years came to be useful in more ways than I imagined. I enjoyed my time in the military, but I am not as nostalgic as some that I want to be stuck in time. I enjoy life and its many blessing.