Aloha! I recently have moved to the island of Oahu and will be stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for the next few years. 2017 has been, and will continue to be a year of transition for me.
I turn 30 in two months...not that I am counting. I am getting underway on a warship in a few days for the first time in 4 years, with more responsibly and higher expectations than I have known before. While underway, I will celebrate my 8th year of service.
Ask me 8 years ago if I would still be in the Navy, I am almost positive the answer would have been no. I didn't set out deliberately for this to be my career, but along the way, I found safety and security in a profession that most outsiders would consider inherently unsafe.
I have been asked many times how I ended up in the Navy. My go-to answer is always "you know what, I'm not really sure." I wasn't raised in a military family nor in a military town. I wasn't raised near the ocean...cannot say that the sea was calling my name. My maternal great-grandfather and my paternal grandfather both served in the Navy during WWII, and although I am immensely proud of their accomplishments, during a time where our country needed them most, I never met my great-grandfather, and my Grandpop and I never talked about the Navy. He passed away before I ever even thought of serving. Though I feel a closer connection to them, they were not the reason why I've ended up here.
I was exposed to the military in small, benign events. The Blue Angels would fly over our house when practicing for the annual air show a few towns over. Our neighbors' son-in-law was an Army doctor during the crisis in Bosnia. One of my first, vague memories is of a Navy sprint football game in Philadelphia, cheering on my big brother's childhood hero. Looking back, these independent events didn't directly inspire me to join the Navy, but I'm positive that they helped shape a path I never saw coming.
I watched the bombing of Baghdad in 2003, on TV, almost in unhealthy amounts. I remember hearing Wolf Blitzer talk about the mine hunting dolphins in the Gulf and I was officially intrigued by the Navy. (Fast forward 11 years when I got to work with said Dolphins. Awesome!)
As a teenager, I knew that I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be unique in my college or career choice, and I wanted to do something worth while...I was itching to prove myself and to be the best at something. Pride drove me to Penn State ROTC, but my love for a challenge, the joy I find in surrounding myself with people, and the comfort I instantly found in the community led to my commission, and 8 years later, continues to drive my life.
I often get thanked for my service. My initial reaction is always a bit awkward, because I don't really feel like I have sacrificed much. In fact, I can't imagine doing anything else :-)