By Daniel Deitsch
Navy veteran pursues calling, learn new leadership lessons through AmeriCorps
When I was 17, I decided to graduate high school early for no other reason than to get the heck out. The idea of joining the military was always on my mind, but I had trouble making the commitment. With only weeks left before graduating one year early, I joined the United States Navy. I told myself it was to gain discipline, I told myself it was to find responsibility, but the truth was that it just made sense.
In October 2004, just five months after graduating high school, I left home and began my dedication in service to others. I went on to serve in Japan on the USS Kitty Hawk CV-63, then on to Washington to finish up onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln CNV-72.
My experiences while in the Navy were unlike anything else I had ever known in my life. I met men and women who would become my family. The bond between two veterans or active duty military personnel is unlike anything that could ever be explained in words. It’s a feeling of pride and thankfulness. It’s a feeling of joy and community. It’s a feeling that someone else gets what you are going through or what you have gone through unlike any person back home. It’s a bond so immense and strong that no amount of brute force or herculean strength could tear it apart. It is a bond so emotional that without a second thought, you would throw yourself into the grips of certain death if it meant you could save your brothers and sisters from harm or worse.
The military prepared me for my service to others, and AmeriCorps has prepared me in my service to myself, my community, and my team. AmeriCorps has led me to make a difference in my country and the opportunity to give back so much more.
When a regular, everyday person watches a war movie and the men dying in each scene they say “Wow, what a wonderful movie. What bravery those men had.” When I watch the same movie I can feel the bullets, smell the blood, and soon I can feel the very real tears behind my eyes. Serving is not just a portion of a person’s life, it very much becomes who they are. You do not choose to serve, service chooses you because it is you and it will always be you. Once it is you, then soon it is all that ever makes you happy. I joined the U.S. Navy because I love to serve. It is the only thing that makes sense to me or ever has made sense to me. Service makes me happy and fulfilled, joyful and vibrant.
It was my time in the Navy being a part of something much larger than me that led me to AmeriCorps. I separated from the Navy on October 24, 2010, and I began to work as a commercial HVAC technician. It was fun and interesting for a while, but it did not make me happy. Soon I began to explore what possibilities were open for me and I discovered college.
I quit my job and my profession and went on to become a full-time college student at 25 years old. I continued to search out areas in which I could continue to serve, one of those being the President of the Student Veteran Organization at University of Cincinnati-Clermont. I found anything I could do to serve and eventually even found myself knocking on doors as a campaigner in the 2012 presidential election.
Shortly after, by accident I discovered AmeriCorps NCCC through a friend who had served in class 18B. He filled me in on the details and what it was, what he had done and how I could join. It didn’t take much convincing; in fact it took no convincing at all. The moment I realized what it was, I had an application online and applied to two positions.
After one wait list I received a call and soon thereafter a position as Team Leader in Class 20 NCCC Southern Region. I was proud and excited, I was pompous and thought it would be a cake walk. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I quickly discovered you cannot order 18-24 year olds like they are in the military and you must adapt your leadership style to the people of your team. I was so use to the very direct way of speaking and way of life that I had quite a few rude awakenings as to how to become a successful leader.
So I am now six months in and I am still learning, but I am so very happy with what I have done. I have made my mistakes and corrected my leadership styles. Here I sit tired as I have ever been and worked to the bone, but I am happy and I am serving.
The military prepared me for my service to others, and AmeriCorps has prepared me in my service to myself, my community, and my team. AmeriCorps has led me to make a difference in my country and the opportunity to give back so much more. It has developed me exponentially, both mentally and physically. This program has opened my eyes and my heart to a whole other era of service.
Daniel Deitsch is an AmeriCorps NCCC Team Leader and U.S. Navy veteran. This post originally appeared on the AmeriCorps NCCC Ameri-blog.