Day 73. Guam, USA

Somewhere between Peru and Chile I decided to take a detour and visit my old home, Guam.  I lived on Guam for 3 years when I was in the Navy.  I look back on my time on Guam as my transformation into Adulthood.  It was the first time I really was away from home.  I lived by myself without room mates.  I paid rent, utilities, cleaned my home, cooked my food, and solved my life problems on my own.  There were many ups and downs that came with the experience which is why it feels like a home.

Guam is a small island in the Pacific Ocean.  It is a United States Territory, like Puerto Rico. Citizens on Guam cannot vote during federal elections but they do have a delegate in the House of Representatives.  The US military is the islands #1 employer.  The bases cover 27% of the islands land mass. Most of the income comes from tourists that visit from Asian countries like Japan, China, and South Korea. Here is a video by Wendover productions for an overview.

It is very expensive to fly to Guam from the United States. The average round trip ticket is around $1000 USD.  I was initially going to spend three weeks in South Korea.  My thought process was that I can take a cheaper flight to visit Guam now than when I return to the States. So I took a detour and made some arrangements with some friends that were still on the island.

 

Jordan, Emily and I in front of Naval Hospital Guam

My friend, Jordan, and his wife, Emily, were hosting me during my stay.  They live in Mangilao, Guam.  They gave me my own room and bathroom.  It was a luxury that I rarely had during my trip.  Both of them were working during my stay but we caught up at night.  Jordan even let me borrow his car while he was at work.  Jordan worked during the day and Emily at night but she comes home at 8 to 9ish. At that time we would eat dinner and have catch up on life.

 

I visited my duty station, Naval Hospital Guam.  I was a Hospital Corpsman at NH Guam for 3 years.  One of the most frustrating jobs of my entire life.  Though it helped shape the person I am today because of my experiences there.  I ran into some old peers that were still there.  It felt great to catch up but it didn’t feel good to listen to the consensus of low morale.  It was a good reminder of why I left the Navy to travel the world.  I know where their dissatisfaction comes from because I lived it.  I hope they find their peace with the Navy.  I compare the hospital visit felt like going back to your old high school, if your high school took care of sick and dying patients.

Hiro(Japanese Tourist), Jordan, me and Tyler. We went sailing on Lasers. It one of my favorite past times while on Guam.

My friend told me it would be a good morale boost to be on American soil and be around friends.  I didn’t realize until I left how true that statement was.  The ability to speak English freely without thinking if the other person understood me was comfortable.  I used to live on Guam, so when Jordan let me use his car, it felt like driving around my home town.  I revisited my favorite restaurants McKrauts, Gabriels, Cafe Tu’re, Asu Smokehouse, and Pikas Cafe.  I cooked risotto for Emily and Jordan as a kind of payment for hosting me.  I’m so thankful to have friends on the other side of the world.

 

Cooking risotto while drinking. 

I trained Jiu Jitsu twice.  I went to Vida once. It wasn’t too far from where I was staying. It had a good core of students.  Some are MMA fighters on Guam.  Every night was competition training for them.  It was a good push. They waived the mat fee too. Then I trained at Spike 22 at Steel Athletics.  I had to pay a $15 mat fee for that day.  Only two people showed up for lunch open mat.  Rohin was training for a MMA fight in July and Mike was there training with him.  It was good training with heavy weights that just used technique, especially Rohin.  Rohin could have crushed me, he looked over 250 lbs.  It was a chill rolling session.  Despite the $15 mat fee and the few people it was a good experience.

 

 

Vida BJJ in Mangilao, Guam.

I went to see Gabe Baker, my coach when I trained at Carlson Gracie Guam.  We had lunch at a Thai place next to the academy.  It was getting renovated, new mats, so I couldn’t train at my old gym. Getting a one on one with my old coach was what I needed. It felt at times that I was stumbling through the dark with what I needed to work on.  He gave me some guidance that was worth more than the two training sessions I had on the island.  He had an interesting philosophy on the belt system.  I’m grateful for the training I received on Guam and I thanked him for all that he taught me.  I will visit Guam and Carlson Gracie Guam again some day.

 

Gabe Baker in Carlson Gracie. Work in Progress.

“Purple belt is the longest belt, and is the belt most people quit at.  A brown belt is just waiting for his black belt. “

The Grey Area

What I learned from my Navy experience.

7 years and 7 months. Done.  It has been a long road. Honestly like many I had a sense of bitterness and disdain towards the Navy.  I can make a laundry list of the things I disliked and experienced, but it’s over.  What I choose to do is…let go and move forward. It’s easy to focus on all the bad things but flip the coin and you can see all the positives that come from an experience like serving in the military.

1.  A good friend of mine said to me, ” I’m not going to miss the work, the places I visited, nor the training, what I’m going to miss the most is the people.”  He said that to me a year from my contract ending and it stayed with me. The people I’ve met in my travels and duty stations while enlisted will be some the greatest friends I will ever meet.  I would not have met those people if I had not enlisted.  For that I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

2. My career path started, like many  Sailors in post 9/11, as a recruit at Recruit Training Center Great Lakes, IL. I went across the street to A school, Hospital Corps School Great Lakes, IL.  I continued my training to Field Medical Training Battalion in Camp Pendleton, CA.  My first duty station was Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.  I trained and tried out for special operations as a Dive Medical Technician.  Dive School didn’t work out as planned and I was sent to Naval Hospital Guam.  3 years on an isolated island in the Pacific changed me.  I choose to be stationed in possibly the best place to get deployed, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, CA.  I didn’t get deployed but what I got in exchange was priceless. I’ve experienced many once in a lifetime experiences. I can only be thankful for that opportunity that was given to me.

3.  I learned a lot about myself in the Navy.  Life isn’t just black and white. I received my DD-214, an official form of military discharge,  yesterday.  It showed all my duty stations, awards, job and my last rank.  It shows what kind of Sailor I was on paper. On black and white. It doesn’t show the struggle, the friends I’ve made, the things I learned, how I changed as a person, the failed policies, love lost, favoritism, politics, trauma, friendship, death and overall life in the Navy. The grey area. The words in between the lines.

Don’t let your bitterness fester. Let go.

Time to travel. Life is short.