Sailors cope with the sacrifices of service as they honor fallen USS Nimitz veterans


(NewsNation) — During basic training, sailors learn what it takes to be “warrior tough.” But it is more than just being physically ready for warfare.

“It is not only your body, but also your mind and also your spirit,” says Lt. Lee Yi, Chaplain of the USS Nimitz.

Lee Yi talks to sailors coping with the pressures of their jobs and the heavy responsibility of long deployments at sea,

Navy reports indicate that over the last three years, a growing number of sailors have deserted their post – that number more than doubled from 63 desertions in 2019 to 157 in 2021. Living on a ship 24 hours a day and seven days a week takes a toll on a person. That toll is often misunderstood by the general American public.

“They don’t see what we do here,” says 20-year-old Autumn Branch, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate. “They don’t know what we go through, what we have to deal with when we are out to sea, not talking to our families, any of that.” 

Aboard the USS Nimitz, there are resources that are intended to improve the quality of life and address mental health concerns. There is a quiet library to read a book and scheduled group activities, like bingo, to pass the time and build camaraderie. There are also additional services to help families and ease financial pressures when back on dry land.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure that they again have the resources they need,” says the chaplain. “They can come to us, they can talk to us.”

When asked if he regretted joining the Navy, 20-year-old Khary Murphy-North, an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate originally from Youngstown, Ohio says he doesn’t have any regrets.

“I like the choices that I make and I feel like if I didn’t make those choices, I wouldn’t be the man I am today,” says Murphy-North.  

About 5,000 sailors stand aboard the USS Nimitz, but millions have come before them – from all branches of the US Military. Many of them bravely sacrificed their lives for our freedom. On this Memorial Day, we remember and pay tribute to them.

“I will represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world,” the sailors of the USS Nimitz say in unison, reciting their creed.

“I respect everyone who has served before me,” says Branch, “The ones who have fallen before us. I take that day in remembrance of them.”

Sailors have walked the deck of the USS Nimitz for 47 years, which serves as an important reminder to the crew of rear admiral Christopher Sweeney.

“That grounds us and it helps us explain to these sailors sometimes who are up there on the flight deck for 12 hours a day why they are there and why that is important,” says Sweeney.  

Echos of the past remain on the ship, in the words of those honoring their predecessors.

“To recognize and realize that there have been many who have come before us and have done exactly what we are doing,” says 21-year-old Airmen Kenlee Courtney. “We gotta follow in their footsteps.”

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