It's been an interesting journey, and certainly an eventful one. On the one thing I wanted the most from the service - the saving of my financial health - the Navy delivered masterfully. When I first made the decision to join, I was broke, tens of thousands in debt, and still had to make four rent payments on an apartment in Ithaca that I was no longer using. Not only have I been I able to pay off all the debt I accrued to my mother while at Cornell, I've saved up a sizable nest egg to survive this transition, however long it may take. And thanks to the nuclear power training I now possess, the prospects for the future of my bank accounts don't look all that bad.
It's undeniable that serving has changed me for the better in numerous ways. It has supplied me with a perseverance that has benefitted me on more occasions than I can recall. It has shown me the true meaning of the phrase "this sucks," and all bad experiences from here on will have trouble measuring up. At the same time, some things have remained the same, and it is for that reason (among many others) that I must seek the answers to some questions elsewhere.
And the memories...no shortage of them. The Stingrays, the night at the Mellow Mushroom in April 2004, being announced twice at Nuclear Power School graduation, Thanksgiving Eve 2004, visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Viking and Club USA, the Argonaut, the Rock of Gibraltar and the apes, January '07 in Boston, Portsmouth and Durham, Grand Bonecoming 2007, doing the first reactor startup in the shipyard, Shea Stadium and Fenway Park, walking off for the last time three and a half weeks ago, and the inexorable march toward tonight. There's plenty to forget: boot camp, the broken collarbone, nearly everything about Groton and New London, every ORSE, every ORSE workup, DMD, the shipyard test program, SCC operations, losing Halifax in 2006, not getting ETMS, the just-about-annual ritual of moving, and having my first post-Navy plan blow up in my face. And there's a lot I'd like to remember, but probably won't: Plymouth, England in 2005, that night of bar-hopping in the second-to-last week in Saratoga, and two nights from last week, to name a few.
I still haven't been able to conclusively answer the question that's been kicking around in my head for a while now: if I were back at the end of 2002, with the knowledge I have now, would I do it again? My mind is actually leaning toward yes. I knew from the very start that I wasn't going to make a career of the Navy. I never planned to re-enlist more than once, if at all. So even if today wasn't the last day, it wouldn't be too far off in the grand scheme of things. What I got out of being a Sailor is important and valuable, and is setting me up for everything to come after - likely in more ways than I currently realize or understand. The challenge now is to build on the last six years and continue to go forward. It's a challenge that, thanks to the Navy, I know I'm ready for. Bring the future on.