Many patrons thank us upon learning that we are a Veteran owned business. Lots of our customers relate their own service to us when they find out, or they tell us how their parents served, or children currently serve. It’s understandable, as we live in a society which, after a temporary setback in the late 60’s and early 70’s, has and continues to have an AMAZING relationship with its Armed Services, which have been completely volunteer-based since 1973. We may not always agree with an individual Administration, but we can largely get behind the sacrifices that the men and women of the US forces make in service to our civil society. Still, 7.6% of the population is an extreme minority, so most Americans have no idea what it is actually like to serve in the military.
My partner, Michael Endicott, and I both served in the armed forces. Three of our employees, (Derek (Tacoma), Shaun (Twisp), and Marty (Tonasket), served as well. While I can’t speak to the specifics of each of their service, I can tell you about mine.
I enlisted and served in the United States Navy for nine years and two months, from November of 1996 until March of 2005. I trained at Great Lakes, Illinois, then Damneck, Virginia, on the path to becoming a Data Systems Technician. After completing training, I reported to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, homeported in Bremerton, Washington, until February 2002. During that time, I served as the primary Anti-submarine warfare tech onboard, and the Carl Vinson participated in Operation Desert Fox (strikes on the Saddam Hussein regime) and Operation Enduring Freedom, which quickly became the Global War on Terrorism. I left fairly soon after the carrier had returned to homeport, and attached to Naval Air Weapons Center Point Mugu, California. I did three years of radar and communications repair at a tiny airfield just NW of Malibu, CA. This component of my service was an absolute blast. I spent the time raising my young family, surfing Point Mugu’s break, and finishing my college degree. When I left that facility, I returned to Washington State, bought a house in Tacoma, and attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln in Everett, Washington. Onboard that ship I was primarily responsible for maintaining the SIPRnet (secure, secret internet) uplink from the ship, and maintaining many assets on that network, onboard.
I recognize that as an enlisted person, I had a fairly lavish lifestyle. Due to the classification rating of my equipment, my offices were often secure, and access codes weren’t exactly handed out. For that reason, my coworkers and I generally assembled our own clubhouse complete with TV, game system, kick-ass stereo, and gaming computers. One of the advantages of serving in a capacity of waiting for something to break is a bit of free time. I very much enjoyed watching jets take off and land from the crow’s nest on the O-10 level, 6 decks above the 4 ½ acre flight deck. Despite the fact that I am fairly independently minded, I managed to get by within the rigid framework of discipline and order.
Even though we made life onboard as comfortable as possible, we lived for the moments when we pulled into port in exotic cities or foreign countries. In my 4+ years stationed onboard a Naval ship, I visited Hawaii (4x), Singapore (2x), Pattaya Thailand, Hong Kong, Perth (AUS), Hobart (AUS), Dubai (UAE), Jebel Ali (UAE), Bahrain, Sigonella Italy, Rota Spain, and the Azores Islands. Those experiences were truly priceless, and I treasure all the memories and friends.
Prior to joining the military, I had already been a prolific cannabis smoker. I was lucky enough to live on Mercer Island, near Seattle, and we had a pretty amazing, steady supply of BC hydro and Eugene soil grown at the time. My parents, and their honest approach led me to the least harmful adult intoxicant, cannabis. I maintain that an honest approach leads to an understanding that cannabis is for “anytime,” whereas chemicals and booze are for “sometimes.” Cannabis use has been so prolific since Vietnam era, that recruits were coached to say they’ve never tried it or have only tried it once.
I can’t speak to current policy, but I am willing to bet that the policy has changed little. I didn’t smoke any cannabis during the enlistment. I did smoke some the night I got out of the Navy. My mom scored me a quarter ounce of Seattle’s finest from a friend on Capitol Hill in Seattle, and I picked it up on my way through town. Really, quite bizarrely, I wanted to tell someone that I was going to get high, so I called Ricker back when he was at KISW and told him I was FREE of the Navy! He did graciously take my call and relayed to me that he was a Navy brat hailing originally from Pensacola, Florida (there is a massive Naval Air Base, there). We chatted for a few and then I was home. My ex and I decided to wait until the kids got to bed, then we smoked out of a one hitter (aka a bat) and got suuuuuper fucking high.
During my time in the Navy, I did witness a culture that really steers sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines to drinking, and it just isn’t a great practice. When I checked in to the Abraham Lincoln, they had literally just finished fishing dead human bodies out of the water after the Banda Aceh tsunami that killed 200,000 people near Christmas, 2004. There was a lot of stress and PTSD onboard from dealing with the event in a humanitarian manner, and for a while the good crew of the Abraham Lincoln was chalking up a DUI per day on the streets and highways of Washington State. The mitigation campaign was in full effect, to be fair, and they had video and stills of car wrecks (gore included) playing on a projector and large screen in the hangar bay, where the crew disembarks down a ladder and gangway, off the ship. I do wish the Armed Forces would choose the safer alternative, because cannabis IS safer than alcohol.
Though my cannabis life and my military life were quite separate in time, I do treasure the experiences in each of them, very much. In the end, I got a paycheck for over nine years, my college degree was paid (part of my grad degree, too), I travelled the world, and put up with a little bit of shit and showed up in an ironed uniform. I wasn’t much for shining my shoes to a high polish. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.