Many people have a time of year where they become reflective; on the past, on where they’ve been, on what they’ve accomplished and on what lies ahead in the future. For me, that day is today; Veterans Day.
Those who know me are already aware that I served our country in the United States Navy. As a college sophomore at Grand Valley State University, I wasn’t performing up to my full potential, so I enlisted in the Navy in 2002 and served five years active duty. In that time I learned how to do more things than I could’ve ever imagined or accomplished had I not been an enlisted sailor.
I was fortunate enough to land, what is arguably one of the best jobs in the military – a photographer and journalist. I went to school and trained to be a journalist tapping in to my high school days when I worked on the newspaper staff. When I left my training school in Fort Meade, Maryland I was stationed on the USS Iwo Jima LHd-7, an amphibious assault ship which, at 831 feet long, is the second largest ship in the Navy carrying over 2,000 Marines and 1,200 Sailors at capacity. It was on the IWO that I went on an eight month extended deployment in 2003. LHD-7 was the first ship to deploy Marines into Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. We didn’t get much liberty call on that deployment as we were at a state of war so it was a very trying time, but one that I learned and grew from.
I did have some very fun jobs and duty stations as a photographer and journalist in the Navy. I helped to produce and publish a weekly newspaper on board the ship. I’ve taken photos out of the side of the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter hovering over the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve served as the Atlantic Fleet Admiral’s personal photographer meeting many foreign dignitaries and ambassadors. I even helped to navigate my ship through the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea on the borders of Egypt. I also got to do a little bit of traveling. The Navy helped me see Italy, Spain, Malta, Crete, and Jebel Ali.
I learned a lot. I grew a lot, I accomplished a lot and I developed a great sense of pride, honor, courage and commitment. The military helped me to grow up and become an adult and a very passionate and dedicated photographer.
Not only am I so fortunate to have been able to serve our country and to learn and grow so much for my service but I’m very fortunate that my service taught me so many things especially photography. I have since taken what I learned in photography, expanded upon and developed my business which I am ever so thankful for. I’m also lucky to have met my wonderful husband while serving! (Can’t leave that part out! 😉 )
So today I am very reflective on where I’ve been and how far I have come, I not only think about my past, but about all those who served our country before me and put their lives on the line so that we could have safety peace and freedom here at home. Lastly, I think about and salute those that are currently serving.
I leave you with some of my favorite images from my Navy Days. 🙂
**disclaimer: MANY of the images below are not my photos, but the beautiful and talented work of the fine photographers that I served with onboard USS IWO JIMA. I do NOT claim to be the woman behind the lens nor am I trying to take credit for someone else’s work, just the admirer of a fine photo which help me to remember some of the great adventures I went on.**
Malta was such a fun port that we visited twice! Though the first time we didn’t get much liberty. They liked us in Malta. Brad Pitt was there at the time filming Troy. Sadly, I didn’t meet him, though some of my friends did.
The Suez Canal and Egypt’s northern borders.
Yep. That’s me right there ** V V V V V ** standing at the top of that FLOATING scaffolding painting the side of the ship in Rota, Spain.
Rota was our last port call before coming home. There were lots of great things to see and do there but my favorite was visiting the Tio Pepe winery and vineyard.
While doing an ammunition offload post deployment in New Jersey, it snowed. A LOT! And we had to shovel it all off of the ship before we could get underway to go back home. It made me feel like I was home in Michigan. 😉
Fleet Week in NYC is one of the most outrageously fun things that a sailor can be a part of. We were lucky to have the chance to go in 2004. It was a kind of “Thank You!” to us for having spent 8 months away from home overseas during the beginning of the war. Fox News set up shop on the flight deck of the ship and the NYC USO troop came aboard. Geraldo also came aboard to do a spot for his show. He was a little nutso – true to the hype. It was a privilege to be able to be a part of these live news events broadcast from our ship!
I’m still friends with those awesome USO girls to this day! 🙂
Below, you see that I got the “smack laid down on me” as I was getting shown how to take someone down in hand to hand defense. Yep. I trained to be on our Ship Self Defense Force (SSDF) team. And, it was being on that team that led me to meeting my hubby! 🙂
There he is. Dear old hubby. He hates this photo so I’m sure to hear about it, but I like it. We only have a handful of photos of us together in uniform and this was during Fleet Week in Ft. Lauderdale when he turned 21 (yah, he’s a baby. I not only outranked him, but I’m older than him as well!) and when I was promoted to 3rd Class Petty Officer. And yes. That is a boa constrictor. I think I paid a man something ridiculous like $10 just to hold the snake. Hubby was impressed I think especially since he loathes snakes. 😉
Best chief I ever served under is standing with me right below. He’s still serving! He’s from Detroit and the most avid Red Wings fanatic you will ever meet. He would move mountains to get the Red Wings games aired on our ship’s CCTV (onboard tv). The Red Wings lost in the playoffs the year we were on deployment. Chief was in a pissy mood for at least a week after that, but was ready to route for them again come fall.
There I am! All decorated. This was taken a few months before I got out of active duty in 2007. Thank you to all veterans past and present for all of your hard work, courage, commitment and dedication in protecting our nation’s freedom. Happy Veterans Day!!