As many of you may know I am a Reservist in the U.S. Navy. That means I am basically in the Navy on a part-time basis and "play" Navy on one weekend a month and then two weeks at some point during the year. A couple of weeks ago while at "drill" we were notified that the annual Armed Forces Day Parade would be held in downtown Chattanooga, TN on May 7th, 2010 and that the Grand Marshall would be the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West.
The MCPON is the most senior enlisted person in the Navy and is a liaison for the enlisted community to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). The MCPON is also called upon to testify in front of Congress on various issues involving the enlisted naval community.
MCPON West is a previous Quartermaster (QM) in the submarine community and his accomplishments are too many to list here. For more detailed information on him you can visit either his Facebook page or his official Navy page.
Now back to the point...
During that drill weekend several of us were asked if we would like to march in the parade since the Navy needed to make a good showing for the MCPON. Reluctantly I volunteered. So on May 7th about 20 reservist met at the drill center. I'll fast forward a bit and take you to the point where we are marching down the street and start to pass the reviewing stand where MCPON West is watching us. As we pass by he breaks his salute and starts clapping loudly, at which point cold chills went down my spine and I was instantly filled with more Navy pride than I can ever remember.
After the parade a few buddies and I walked back over towards the viewing stand and eventually got to shake the MCPON's hand and get a picture with him. That moment was awesome. Here I was shaking hands with the senior enlisted person in the Navy and he just happens to be wearing the same submarine warfare pin that I was wearing. Like two brothers separated by three pay-grades and a lot of years.
That moment was trumped only to the event that happened the next day. I was invited to attend a submarine veteran's meeting at my local Golden Coral and the guest speaker was MCPON West. I arrived early and sat down with his photographer, MC1 Jennifer Villalovos. We made small talk and all the while the MCPON was sitting right next to me.
Without a doubt, this past weekend was the highlight of my military career.