And with that, my service in the United States Navy is officially complete. End of contract. Finito. Fin.
Ten and a half years ago, I embarked on a journey. Spurred on from a drunken Cuervo-fueled argument with a dear friend about the direction of my life (or lack thereof).
My first attempt at college and living out on my own was a bust. I failed most spectacularly and spent a few years just roaming about. I did have a steady job for a number of years at Bath & Body Works and just worked to live. Plenty of dreams, but no degree or means of getting anywhere. It takes a true friend to call you out on that feeling of helplessness. A true friend will see your lack of initiative and call you out on it. So to my friend, Taryn, I love you and can’t thank you for that metaphorical Cher-esque slap across the face telling me to “snap out of it!”
I was humbled immediately by journey in the military. As the academic in the family, I always mistakenly thought I was above hard and menial work. They Navy said “Screw that,” and put a mop in my hand and told me to swab the centerline passageway. I worked from the bottom-most ring up meeting the most incredible and selfless shipmates and mentors along the way.
Traveling all over the world was an amazing experience. Moving about the globe by sea:
It’s not unknown that my deployments to the Middle East were – I’ll put it lightly – humbling, to say the least. My experience was not confined to the safety of an operating base. I traveled around Afghanistan (once even in disguise) on photojournalism and public affairs assignments covering patrol groups, reconstruction efforts, humanitarian assistance, and even the death of fellow comrades. I saw what war can do to a country and its people. I witnessed fire fights, battles, and even sent fellow Americans home in boxes:
I was lucky. I made it home safe and sound. As it is Memorial Day Weekend, I feel it’s necessary to reflect on that part of the journey where I said good-bye to fellow servicemembers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation’s freedoms. They will not be forgotten.
I believe it was somewhere in the Middle East, likely Bahrain, when I had just finished paying off the school debt from my failed first experience that I knew I had to finish what I started. My parents had high hopes for me as I did for myself and I knew sitting at the media watch desk at U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain that I wanted to work at a place like Blizzard Entertainment. I’ve written ad nauseum about this, but it bears repeating as dreams often do. I knew the only way to get there was to buckle down, learn from the mistakes I made in college and take the experience I had thus far in the military and apply myself.
I found school rather enjoyable — even going full time some semesters. What started in Bahrain I took to San Diego and during my final tour with the USS Anchorage (LPD 23), I finished what I started:
Where I go from here is unknown. But I feel so much more prepared than when I was putzing around before the Navy. There are so many great experiences I would not give up for anything and I know that this journey was meant as a learning tool. You see wherever I end up, be it at Blizzard, or any other great company, I’ll appreciate it more. It’s a lesson I saw firsthand in the Navy. Undesignated seaman tend to do better when they are finally selected for a job in the Navy because they appreciate it more — they had to bust their ass to get there.
I spent ten years busting my ass to get to this point so I know I’ll have that appreciation of landing that cushy office job because I know things could be a lot harder. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and I’m a more well-rounded person thanks to the many leaders who instilled those values in me. I’ve served with great people and I’m grateful.
Thank you all and much love.