Monday, March 02, 2009
I have always considered myself very lucky to have been born and raised in the United States of America. I have been thinking a lot lately about the things I take for granted. For instance, I have never, ever gone hungry. I have always had a roof over my head, and growing up, I had access to a top-flight education.
I can say and write what I feel inside without fear of reprisals. I can worship in my own way. I am protected by the rule of law and under the provisions set forth in the United States Constitution. I can cast a ballot for the leadership I believe in. I can follow my career path and make myself into what I have always wanted to be-- an Actor, a Writer, a Director; I fashion myself into what I wish to be: Someone who tells stories for a living, giving people the opportunity to escape, reflect, and see themselves from a different perspective. I can own my own property, and no one can take it away from me.
Most importantly, I am free to be myself.
My shelves are full of books. My refrigerator is stocked with food. My mind and soul are comforted by the knowledge that I have a strong, diverse network of close friends and an incredibly large, wonderfully supportive family. I am part of a wonderful community.
I am the luckiest man I know.
I have always felt that I owe something to this country for the blessings it has bestowed on me. Now I am going to attempt to repay that debt in a very small way. That is why on September 1st, 2009, I will travel to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, to begin training to become a Sailor in The United States Navy Reserve.
I wanted to join the Navy when I was in College, but didn't. After my junior year, I was ready to go. A friend of mine talked to me about the importance of "finishing what you start", and so I finished college and immediately started working in the entertainment business. Somewhere along the line, the Navy got lost in the vast network of roads not taken. Now, some fourteen years later, I am giving myself the opportunity to finally do it, forging a new path in service to my friends, family and community.
I have already told several people about this decision, and--while the news has usually been met with stunned disbelief--the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
When do you leave and how long will you be gone?
I leave September 1st for eight weeks of recruit training in Great Lakes Illinois. After that, I will spend eight More weeks at Class 'A' Technical School in Meridian, Mississippi. I will learn what I need to know to become a Logistics Specialist in the US Navy. My primary duties will involve supply movements. My Rating (Job Title) will be StoreKeeper, or 'SK.'
What is your commitment? For how long?
My commitment is for Eight years-- Six active in the Reserve, drilling one weekend a month and two weeks per year, then two years on 'Individual Ready reserve' status, or 'Standby' mode, whereupon I may be called to serve at any time.
Will you be deployed overseas? For how long?
The short answer is, yes, at some point, although I'm not sure. I am actually thinking of volunteering to go IA, which stands for 'Individual Augmentee', where Navy Personnel fill needs of various branches, regardless of Rating. One may find oneself driving trucks or filling in as undesignated manpower for the Army, Air Force, or Marines.
What does this mean for your Acting career?
We shall see. The drilling schedule is printed a year in advance, and if Local Theatres are willing to work with me and give me an understudy, things should run very smoothly. If anything, my participation in Navy Operations and the need for an understudy may be a way to 'Create Jobs' in the Theatre!! In the meantime, I am thinking very hard about creating my own material-- autobiographical stuff-- which I can do anytime, anywhere, 'a la Slash Coleman.'
You have your college degree-- why didn't you go in as an Officer?
It isn't that simple, actually. While I do have a 4-year degree, it isn't a very competitive degree for OCS (Officer candidate school) selection... especially not in the Reserves. There are no 'Theatre Officers.' However, I am thinking long-term, and the surest way to attempt to become a Navy Public Affairs Officer is to first be able to present a solid Navy record. In other words, can leadership look at me and say "This guy went in enlisted at thirty-five; he has a college degree and look at his performance record, etc." Am I reliable? Responsible? Do I have leadership qualities? Is my OCS package competitive? Basically, I want to do the best job possible in my current rating. Then worry about what comes next.
Did your participation in SEAL Team drive you to enlist?
I'd be lying if I said no. Through SEAL Team, I have been fortunate to meet some of the best, brightest, most inspiring folks around. People like John McGuire and his brother, Rusty, both of whom have served their country with distinction. Several others in SEAL Team have served, or serve currently, including several young men-- Like the 18-Year Old 'Human Dynamo' Hardy Reichel-- who ae on their way to places like West Point and beyond. Being around that kind of dedication day in & day out definitely rubs off on you. And while SEAL Team has provided me with inspiration, it is also preparing me both physically and mentally to meet the challenges of recruit training. When i told John McGuire that I leave for RTC in September, he smiled and said "Oh, man, you're gonna CRUSH it." I am seriously going to run those 18-year old kids into the ground.
What else inspired you to enlist?
My family. because I love them very much. I'm doing this for my Mother & Father, Bebop & Nanny, Jimmy & Judy, Charles & Margaret, Jan & Stu, Uncle Michael, Uncle Larry, all of my Cousins and their children and the vast network of family members on both sides. Hell, I'm even doing it for my biological father, Ralph Jackson, because, although he may not realize it, I love him, too. I'm also doing this for my Grandparents, to honor the sacrifices they made, and for my cousin Shaun, who floors me each day with his amazing strength and courage.
The Navy's Core values are HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT. I seek to uphold and embody those values from this day forward, each and every day of my life, secure in the knowledge that I am not alone and never will be.
In closing, this will be a new adventure, one that I am looking forward to with great anticipation. I hope to do well, and represent my community favorably at recruit training command and beyond. I have roughly six months to prepare for boot camp, and I am currently part of the US Navy DEP (Delayed Entry Program) I'll post a little more about my experiences as a 'Depper' and the preparation process as I get closer to my step-off date. Thanks for reading this blog, and for all of the ways in which each and every one of you has inspired me to do my best. I'm looking forward to being a part of the World's Finest Navy!!
Here is a short Navy Tribute Video, which shows the proud tradition of the Greatest team on the Planet. Enjoy it, and thanks again.