Amanda and her dad, Jim, on board the U.S.S. John C. Stennis before her deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams.

I flew to the Great Lakes Training Command in February of 2005 to begin training as a member of the U.S. Navy. I was not nervous enroute to bootcamp; I was cavalier and confident that it would be easy street. When I stepped off the bus and the recruit division commanders started yelling at all of us: for making eye contact, for putting our bags down, for picking them back up before they told us to, for doing anything at all, my mood quickly changed. The first night of bootcamp was, shall I say, challenging. We got a very quick phone call when I told my dad I was alive and remember getting emotional during that communication. I was cold, uncomfortable and trying to keep up with everything that was asked of me. They cut my hair extremely short, changing how I looked, seemingly to groom me to focus on the task at hand and not looks. Welcome to bootcamp.

Fast forward to bootcamp graduation, one of the proudest moments in memory. Those eight weeks took my innate ability to lead and sharpened it, reshaped my confidence, gave me some serious discipline, and handed me the tools I needed for my navy career. One of my favorite things I participated in was what the Navy calls “Battle stations.” It was the final exercise for us new recruits to prove that we had what it takes to move on. It’s a several hours long event that consists of obstacle courses, swimming tests, firefighting, damage control, survival, rescue and working together as a cohesive unit. Some parts of battle stations reminded me of a Hollywood movie set: it was a production! When we passed all the series of tests, we received a crisp Navy-blue ball cap with Navy lettering in canary yellow on it to replace our recruit ball caps, signifying we made it. My outlook of bootcamp changed drastically from that first day. I found my groove and got it done.

I received my orders to NAS Lemoore (luckily for me, close to home) and was stationed there for the duration of my time in the Navy and deployed in 2007 on the U.S.S. John C. Stennis (CVN 74) out of San Diego. The Stennis is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and was essentially a floating city. I became a plane captain, launching and receiving FA/18 fighter jets on the flight line and flight deck, working closely with the pilot to make sure everything was buttoned up and ready for flight. The adrenaline rush has yet to be matched in the civilian sector.

My time on active duty was filled with adventures and hard work. I can still do all the moves to launch a fighter jet: starting up the engine with sweeping hand signals and saluting the pilot before their departure. One amazing memory while on deployment: I’d never seen so many stars on the flight deck out at sea.

I traveled all over the world, made some amazing lifelong friends, and felt an immense sense of pride, a pride that I still embody today. The Navy’s core values, “Honor, Courage, Commitment,” are three things I try to hold dear and operate from in my actions.

I was honorably discharged in 2009 as an AZ3 (third class petty officer) and became a veteran of the United States Navy.


A history:

November 11 is Veterans Day, formally known as Armistice Day. The federal holiday spurs celebrations, parades and events all over the country and is a time-honored tradition to recognize the men and women that served in the armed forces.

World War I – known at the time as ‘The Great War’ – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars,” according to an excerpt from the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs within the VA.

A series of events followed to make November 11 a legal holiday and to be named Veterans Day. In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared the 11th of November to be the first observation of Armistice Day with the following statement, according to records:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

Nearly two decades later, an Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) adopted May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November an official legal holiday. According to records, at the request of a plethora of veteran’s service organizations, the Act of 1938 was amended by replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans.” On June 1, 1954, November 11th became “a day to honor American veterans of all wars.”

What it means for me:

I think what it means to be a veteran is as unique as a snowflake: each military member has their own feelings about that title. For me, being a veteran is a lifelong honor that I don’t take lightly. Lots of folks thank me for my service when I tell them I was in the Navy, and sometimes it’s hard to find the words. I didn’t sign up in hopes of pomp and circumstance; I did it because it felt like the right thing to do. I served my country because I believe in freedom. I believe people are innately good and this country is worth fighting for. Take a moment this November 11th to say hello to a veteran, strike up a conversation, and get to know the former uniformed military members of your community.

Amanda Wiliams is a staff reporter for The Cordova Times.

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Amanda Williams
Amanda Williams, originally from California, is a reporter, photographer and videographer for the Cordova Times. She has a long history of writing professionally for magazines and newspapers in her home state, and she also writes her own music. Williams is a decorated Navy veteran. When she isn’t covering the news, she enjoys skiing, singing, spending time with friends and family and traveling. She first came to Cordova as a VetsWork intern working for the Forest Service as a public outreach specialist on the Cordova Ranger District.