We Take an Oath
I am a United States Sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, And I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.
I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my Navy’s combat team with Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.
— The Sailor’s Creed
I’ve had the privilege of serving in the United States Navy. I served on board the Arleigh Burke-class Destroyers U.S.S. Higgins (DDG-76) and U.S.S. Benfold (DDG-65) during some of the most historic moments in modern times. I consider three of those moments the most significant in my naval career: 9/11, Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Unified Assistance. These events each left a mark on me that will last the rest of my life.
On September 11, 2001, I was on board U.S.S. Higgins (DDG-76). We just finished a yard period, where our ship received some overhaul and maintenance. We were on our way to reload our inventory of ammunition, since it’s never a good idea to go into a shipyard with a lot of things that go BOOM. I was temporarily assigned to serve on the Mess Decks, so I was busy setting up for breakfast.
We were close enough to the California coast to get satellite signal, so I turned on CNN. The North Tower of the World Trade Center was on fire. As our crew sat down to breakfast, we watched Flight 175 crash into the South Tower. We watched in silence as people jumped to their deaths. We watched in silence as the towers fell. Each of us knew that the world was about to change.
Our response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. On March 22, we opened fire on Baghdad. U.S.S. Higgins launched a total of 31 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, many of them on that first night. I will never forget the myriad of emotions we all felt as the city exploded with every missile we launched. Our missiles were so accurate and precise, we knew when each one we launched hit its target.
Operation Enduring Freedom
Christmas of 2004 saw the U.S.S. Benfold in Hong Kong. Although we were deployed and away from our families, we managed to find a sense of holiday spirit halfway around the world. The next day saw us getting underway, speeding up the Strait of Malacca, and arriving off the coast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. There, we assisted in one of the greatest humanitarian efforts the world has seen.
After a tsunami hit the coast of Indonesia, Thailand, and India, the city of Banda Aceh became one of the hardest hit areas. As one of the first on the scene, we saw the worst of the devastation the massive wave caused. Many of us were eager to go ashore to do whatever we could to help. I stayed on board, where we logged the dead bodies we passed. The ones that struck me the most were the families still clinging to each other. We weren’t allowed to touch them because of cultural differences, so all I could do was watch them float by.
After all the traumatic experiences I saw, I am still proud to have served. The scars run deep; I suffer from PTSD, which includes night terrors, anxiety, and depression. I am one of the many veterans who turn to cannabis to help treat service-related conditions. Cannabis has become a lifeline for many of us who came home scarred. We’re still waiting for the VA to consider cannabis as a treatment alternative. Meanwhile, veterans are killing themselves in VA parking lots begging for help.
There is a community of veterans who are uncomfortable with the phrase, “Thank you for your service.” It took me a long time to learn that the proper response to that was, “Thank you for your support.” So many of our veterans are forgotten by friends, family, or society in general. This year, on Veterans Day, I would ask that when you see a veteran, be kind. Many of us are still fighting our battles. Many of us only came home in body, not spirit. Maybe you couldn’t support us on the battlefield, but we hope you’ll support us here at home. And we will continue to fight for the plant that helps us reconcile the lives we have lived with the lives we now live. And we hope to have your support in this battle.