If you had to do it all over again, would you still have joined the Navy? That is a question I have answered numerous times over the years, and the answer always is a resounding yes.
I have been fortunate enough to live out my childhood dream of becoming a police officer. It’s really the only thing I can ever remember wishing to be when I grew up. The challenge for me was having the patience to wait until I reached the mandatory age to apply. I was an adventurous teenager at the time, who scoffed at the idea of having to endure four more years of school.
For me, the obvious alternative was to join the military, where I knew I would gain valuable training and life experience. What I didn’t know was that I would literally be transformed in all dimensions of wellness.
In November 1988, my family took a trek to Orlando, Fla., from Ohio to help celebrate my graduation from boot camp. The girl they saw in uniform that day was considerably different from the one they said goodbye to a short eight weeks prior.
Beyond the physical transformation that a few months of rigorous training will do to you, I projected a sense of confidence, pride and respect – and my parents will testify to just how much of a transformation that was.
I was not just an adventurous 18 year old anymore, looking to bide some time. Rather, I was a determined young sailor ready to take on the responsibilities of my commitment.
What I initially hoped to gain from my enlistment was an opportunity to “see the world” on the governments’ dime. I wasn’t provided that opportunity because my first duty station only brought me as far as Hampton Roads, a mere 450 miles from home.
What it did give me, however, was the unequivocal sense of certainty that a career in public service was what I desired. It was during my time in the military that I grew to feel the reward for sacrifice.
As a child, my aspirations to become a police officer were based on the perception that the job would be exciting, and I was a thrill seeker. Being in the Navy conveyed to me how service to others is an integral part of making a community. I wanted to contribute to the city where I now lived.
The Navy guided me to Virginia Beach. I chose to stay because it felt like home.
I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to join the ranks of the Virginia Beach Police Department just weeks after my enlistment ended more than 26 years ago.
As difficult as some aspects of Navy life may have been, joining the military is easily one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Would I do it all over again? Without hesitation, yes, I absolutely would.
Master Police Officer Linda Kuehn serves as a public affairs officer for the Virginia Beach Police Department.
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