In reference to: “The military wasn’t a way out of poverty for me” (The Daily Progress Commentary section, Aug. 8):
I cannot argue author T.J. Thompson’s experience. But I stand tall and proud to say that the military was a life enhancement for me. I, too, was born and reared devoid of wealth, in Central Virginia. The military offered me a red carpet.
Military and poverty are not a hand-in-glove situation. Military members come from all walks of life, and some remain; some don’t. No doubt, Mr. Thompson had significant advantages over me even only considering dates of enlistment.
When I enlisted, the Navy was unashamedly a white male bastion with a reputation for pigeonholing racial monitories. I said no to that, and subsequently became a Navy cryptologist (a limited selection field). I still have lifelong friends from that time who would climb mountains for me, and I would reciprocate.
By now, dear readers, you have gleaned the fact I ID as Black, not African American.
Hard work, study, dedication resulted in my being promoted to the highest enlisted grade (master chief, 1% of the total enlisted strength). The military offered a lot, and I took it. At the E5 level, I purchased my first home. Later I sent two children to colleges of their choices, with no residual education debts.
I had great opportunities, which included holding positions as officer in charge, NATO manpower management officer, NATO/Joint Staff placement officer, staff of the chief of naval operations and other significant positions (no sea duty).
Educationally, I took advantage of numerous senior management and leadership institutions and, with the Navy’s assistance, attained four college degrees (one being a post-Ph.D.). Through it all, I had to work hard, study hard, play by the rules.
No, the military is not a welfare state or a panacea. It is an honorable career. I would do it again.
I am a 30-year retiree who fortunately did not suffer any disabilities upon retirement, but I do believe that veterans who do have disabilities should receive better and more prompt treatment.
This information about my career is not intended as a brag sheet but rather to illustrate that the military is a way out, if its opportunities are applied.
Unfortunately, Mr. Thompson did not or could not take the advantage of the opportunities — and it’s worse if his supervisors did not provide him the proper guidance.