Veteran: Navy Service 'Makes Me Who I Am Today'

Nov 8, 2017

All this week, we're honoring military veterans by sharing their stories of service. Today, Donna Nobrega tells us about her experiences as a sailor in the 80s and early 90s, when the country was at peace. 

I joined the military because I was the youngest of five children and my parents were divorced when I was 8 years old and we kind of struggled financially and I just wanted more out of life. I thought about at first going into the Air Force because I actually wanted to be  a pilot or an astronaut when I was younger but I never had the grades for that. So I tried the Navy and that all worked out for me, and so I enlisted, didn’t tell my family I was doing it, came home, said, ‘oh, two weeks from now I’m going into the service.’ So they were a bit surprised about that.

While I was serving .. you start off with boot camp because they want to transfer you from the civilian way of thinking to the military way of life. So it’s very structured. You have to think team at all times. There’s a lot of paying attention to detail. We had a room inspection and they were checking our beds and also our lockers. They would measure everything with a ruler. So they came in and one of our edges to the bed was not just so perfect. Our company commander came in and pulled all of the beds apart. And he threw them, literally, out the door into the parking lot area. We were on the second floor and we had to go out and bring the beds back up and put them back together, and put them together perfect. They would go to that degree – if someone failed, everyone failed.

So my expectations were to travel and just to get away from home and see something new. And all of those expectations were met and exceeded beyond anything I could have imagined. I am happy I served. Sometimes I don’t really feel … maybe I play down that I’m a veteran a little bit because I wasn’t a war-time veteran. I work with veterans now in my career, and to hear the stories of people who have served during, either the Iraqi war, or they were in Afghanistan, and just the trauma that they’ve gone through, the injuries that they’ve sustained. That always breaks my heart to see that because I just feel like it was just so different when I was in the service. And I feel like I didn’t serve my country in that way, even though I served.

But I remember my Uncle Willy when he was in respite. He had his Navy hat and pictures from the Navy right next to him during the time of his passing. And I can’t say for me if  those things will be by my bedside when I pass away because it was a time in my life when I served but I don’t think it defines me, still now, although it was really important and it does make me who I am today.