“Pull up your pants you clown, who do you think you are wearing your pants at your ankles.” Those were the first words spoken to me as I exited the bus and lined up for basic training at Great Lakes, Illinois.  As a young man who spent his high school surfing and skating, I found myself reporting to basic training. I remember pondering: “What the hell did I get myself into?”  Now as I reflect on that period, I realize what an amazing journey it has been for me, from serving in the military to getting my MBA at Chapman.

It all began with meticulous cleaning, following orders, passing uniform inspections, and standing watch.  It felt like waking up from a quick sleep – the whole thing was over before I knew it.  I went from a young boy who only cared about himself, to a young man with a greater purpose.  I must admit that my intentions at the time of joining the United States Navy were to explore and gain an education.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized the purpose for joining the service is more than my own selfish reasons, but for the higher calling of serving your country.

I remember my parents coming to visit me as I completed my basic training.  When I changed into a different attire, I folded my uniform meticulously and placed it on the toilet seat cover.  My father saw the uniform lying there perfectly folded the same way he had done many years ago when he went through boot camp.  Both my parents then realized that I was no longer a boy, but a man who had grown up not before their eyes in the past few months.

After completing basic training I went to Fort Meade, Maryland to receive my training in becoming a Photographer’s mate.  During basic training, a very devastating event took place on September 11th, 2001.  I remember acknowledging that with graduation near, things were going to change very drastically.  When I graduated I was assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 to begin my training to become a U.S. Navy diver.  My father a retired Navy diver, and I grew up in the ocean, so even though I was thinking about being a Marine Sniper, becoming a Navy diver was something that interested me.  I ran 10 to 12 miles a day, more push-ups than I can count, sit-ups, 8 count’s, and other strenuous exercises.  I grew up surfing and playing a lot of sports, but I had never exercised to the extent that the Navy had me doing.  I enjoyed the challenge and truly loved every moment being what they called us, “Mud Puppies.”

After almost a year went by, I still had no official orders to go to dive school in Florida. The Navy sent me to the fleet to work in my rate which was a photographer’s mate.  Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 was a command that prepared new diver candidates before they arrived to the actual dive school. I was very disappointed at the time but sometimes the Navy has bigger plans for you than what you want to do.  When I was young I was so mad that the Navy betrayed me, but later I would understand why.

I was sent to VFA-102 a F/A 18 fighter squadron in Lemoore, Calif.  Lemoore was not a great city – it is hot and did not offer a single thing to do. As a result I enrolled in school to obtain my Bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from City University of Seattle.  Trying to balance deployments with online school was very difficult for me.  I think that people believe online education is easier than an actual classroom environment, for me it was more difficult.  Communicating only through electronic means is a daunting task because essentially I was reading a teacher’s response, which was almost identical with what the book had said.  After few trial and errors I realized that I could only take 2 classes per semester because I would have to study extra since I was struggling with online coursework.

Every person who chooses to serve his country sacrifices the freedom he fights for others while giving up a portion of his own.  Not everyone comes home, and I want to personally note that May was the anniversary of my close friend Trevor Anthony Wine, who lost his life serving in Iraq. Miss you buddy.

Continue Part II of Jonathan’s story »