Aboard the USS New York

Posted on 14. Dec, 2009 by in Life & Times, Uncategorized

By Amy Yensi-

For members of the armed forces, sacrifice is as much a part of the drill as the uniforms they wear.

Some sailors and Marines from the USS New York said they chose this tough life in hopes of securing a better future for themselves in the civilian world. But others said the bonds they forged in the military made the hardships worthwhile.

“Being part of the Marine Corps, we’re such a small community. It’s like a brotherhood. You’re fighting for that guy to your right and to your left,” Justin Twigg, 31, from Florida. He said this during the USS New York’s recent stopover in Manhattan.

The vessel, which is made in part of wreckage from the World Trade Center, holds a deeper meaning for Twigg. He got his call to join on Sept. 11, ten months after he first submitted his application. “I received the call as soon as the second tower was falling down,” said Twigg.

Twigg’s connections to the military go beyond the brotherhood he found in the Marine Corps, “Both my father and father-in law were both in the Air Force. And half of my other family has been in prior service. My brother is actually in the Army as well. I guess you could call it a family thing,” he said.

To him, being a Marine is not a stepping-stone to something else. Almost nine years after joining, he has only one regret. “I probably would have done it earlier. With all the training that I had to go through I ended up missing the kick-off of the invasion of Iraq by just a few months,” he said.

Twigg knows not everyone supports the Iraq mission. But he also knows many people appreciate the work that the troops do. He said the troops appreciate the prayers, letters and crafts they get. “Their support shows us how much they truly believe in what we’re doing and really how much they care for us. There are some small contingencies that don’t really understand fully why we’re still where we’re at in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

To Jonathan Farthing, 19, a Marine from North Carolina, the military is a stepping-stone. He joined to raise money for his college tuition. His plan is to swap tanks and guns for colored pencils and drawing paper and become an animator. But until his time in the service is up, the would-be artist lives the constrained life of any other Marine. “Civilians have the right to do whatever they want. We have times and places we have to be at. We don’t get as much free time as most people. When it comes time to deploy and train, we train through the week, through the weekend, everyday,” said Farthing.

For some of the troops, where they come from is just as important as where they’re going. “Coming from the Bronx is tougher than being in the Navy,” said Jason Lightburn, 24. He said seeing the world outside the Bronx was the best part of military life. After visiting the 9th Ward in New Orleans, he concluded, “it’s a struggle everywhere you go.”

His time in the service has some perks back home. Now, Lightburn said, “even the people on the corner give me respect.”

Returning home is not so easy for Lee Van Domingo, 18. He moved to San Diego from the Philippines in order to join the Navy. His goal is to bring his family to the United States.

“The hardest thing is being away from my parents,” Domingo said. “Sometimes I get depressed thinking about them like what are they doing and what’s happening to them.”

He misses Filipino food, too. His favorite dish is called Adobo, chicken mixed with soy sauce, black pepper and other seasoning. But he might have to wait before he can have Adobo again. “I like eating but I don’t know how to cook. I would rather go to war.”

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