For me it all started and ended in the Pacific Ocean. A department of men and women responsible for the operation of nuclear reactors on one of the most powerful war vessels patrolling the seas there. We all came from different places, we all had different backgrounds. From city rats to country farmers, high school dropouts to even a Harvard graduate, there was no lack of unique individuals. For the several hundred of us, we all had a common goal, and that was to slave away in the engineering plant day and night, ensuring our ship was fully capable at all times, for any situation. We've all seen the dreaded 72 hour work days, and some even more. Where a 30 minute lunch nap is all you have to get you to the next work shift. We stood watches in cycles which never synchronized with late night drill sets or early morning work days. We sacrificed our liveliness and energy for the mission and to maintain a professional standard that was unparalleled. We were the first ones on the ship and the last to go home. We were brothers and sisters, always working together to get the job done. We ate, we bitched, we drank, we smoked, and we cursed together. We had a bond, a trust that could not be broken. We were entrusted with a responsibility for each other. A respect for our fellow man to take care of them before taking care of ourselves. It was through all of our sacrifice that we learned to appreciate all that came before us and after us. It turned boys like myself into men, forging backbones stronger than steel.
Outside of the ship, we all had found a common footing. A sense of duty to one another, and an eternal calling to Always be there when needed. We understand things many do not ever get the chance to see for themselves, a higher purpose to their existence in the world. We've realized that "we" is more important of a word than "me". Never forgetting those who came before us, and training those we leave the future to. A life lesson was taught out hundreds of miles into the oceans, a life lesson in gratefulness, presence, and selflessness.
Family is not a title earned by blood, but by sacrifice. An unbreakable bond that has withstood the test of time. I'm proud to be a Veteran and a part of a community that I can always rely upon, for now and for forever. We will always support each other from the best of times to the worst. We always took care of the man standing beside us first, that's what it was all about.