US Navy, 1975-1980
HT2-E5 Firefighting/damage control/ship maintenance, San Diego/Long Beach
The highlight of my service was definitely all of the great technical career training that the Navy provided me with, as well as the college equivalent classes I took there (under the GI Bill). I’m retired now, but every job I ever got was directly related to that military experience and training. I also appreciate that the Navy gave me the chance to travel and see the world — and it made me appreciate the U.S. even more.
When I left active service, I enrolled in junior college on the GI Bill. I’d seen other Navy guys take the same skills I had and make it into a career as a firefighter, and I decided that’s what I would do. So I talked to the military career counselor at the college, followed his advice and found employment as a firefighter in less than 60 days. I don’t know if I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but I believe my military skills definitely put me head and shoulders above [other job seekers].
When I got out of the Navy, I moved away from my family and ventured up north, so I didn’t have that family support system other than my wife (who was fortunately able to transfer with me). The help I did find was mostly through the local vets programs in the community. If I needed help, I could raise that card … it’s amazing. If you’re a vet in good standing there’s all there to help you out if you just ask. When I lost my firefighting job, they helped me find work at the Bella Vista Water District, where I worked for 23 years before retiring in 2012.
If there’s one lesson I can share with other vets who are just returning to civilian life, it’s to hang on to the discipline you learned in military. Be on time, and show up ready to work. And don’t be afraid to assert yourself – and ask for help — when needed.