Two weeks before we sat down with Robert Diaz, Maintenance Supervisor at Chesterton in Liberty Military Housing's Southwest Navy district in San Diego, California, his daughter Marina left for approximately two months of Recruit Training with the United States Navy. Becoming a Sailor comes with learning a lot of new skills, habits, and, of course, plenty of life lessons. Fortunately for Marina, she has a little bit of a leg up.
Robert says he "married into a military family," so his children have grown up in the community.
"My father in law has eleven kids and most of them went into the military. So now their kids, the next generation is going in," said Diaz.
Eighteen-year-old daughter Marina is well-versed in Navy jargon, understands astern means behind a ship, and the bow is the forward end. She's aware of the commitment she's making to her country and herself, and dad Robert says she's up to the challenge.
"It's all she's heard and known since being young. She's seen his aunts go out to sea and he's been around it her whole life," said Robert.
Robert said he expected to have two full days with Marina before she left for Recruit Training, but the Navy had other ideas.
"We dropped her off at noon at the recruiting office where she signed up. So they took her for all of Tuesday in the hotel. She went to MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station] to do everything she had to do and then we went out for our last dinner because she had to fly out in the morning," said Diaz.
After the family went out to eat one last time, Robert recalled feeling a mix of emotions.
"We took our last photos and then it felt kind of bittersweet. We're going to see her back but seeing her leave felt like it was going to be forever," said Robert.
Because of her awareness of the military culture, Robert said it wasn't that much of a shock to him when Marina announced her decision to enlist. He said they had long conversations about what it would mean for Marina's future - both in the coming days and weeks and long-term. Ultimately, Marina decided that she had to follow her passion and explore what the Navy could offer. So she went to visit a recruiter and the rest, as they say, is history.
"At first she wanted to go to college but as she graduated, two brother-in-laws started their retirement process. They started talking to her and she decided she wanted to go in. It was news to us, but exciting too," said Robert.
Robert recalls being stunned initially, but when the shock wore off, all he felt was pride.
“As a parent, because we're so close, it's nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time. My heart sunk [sic] a little bit and the first thing I thought is [sic], "She's going to be away." As a parent, you always want to keep them close. But parents can also keep kids from expanding. So it's exciting to know that she's doing it," said Diaz.
The goal of Recruit Training (or boot camp as most of the world calls it) is to "transform a person from a civilian into a Sailor with the skills necessary to perform and excel in the fleet." This is the first time that Marina has been away from home, but since it's not her first interaction with the military, Robert is sure that Marina will do just fine since she's grown up understanding what it means to serve the country.
"It's an honor that she's going to be joining the force,” said Robert.
Robert said he and his entire family are looking forward to the blackout period being over so they can receive and write letters to Marina.
"Any day now I expect we should start getting letters. We'll be able to send some too," said Robert.
After Marina's Recruit Training, she'll head onto Accession training or A-School as it's called in Navy parlance. A-School is the first stage of technical training for the Navy's newest Sailors. The length and location of training depend on the Military Operation Speciality (MOS) that a Sailor has selected.
Marina has expressed interest in becoming a hospital medic or an x-ray technician. These two fast-paced medical fields will undoubtedly serve her well if she ever decides to make the shift back to a civilian career. Unfortunately for Robert and his family, Sailors are expected to go directly to A-School after Recruit Training, with no time for stops in between. As Marina works through her A-School requirements, the Navy will lift many of the restrictions from Recruit Training and their liberties increase - which might mean time for a visit home.
Robert said he's looking forward to Marina's first wave of training to be completed so she can be reunited with her family, even if for just a brief period. The family plans to travel to Chicago to witness Marina's Recruit Training graduation and looks forward to welcoming the newest Sailor into the family.
Congratulations, Marina, on your decision to serve America!