Veterans Day, by Courtney Darty

I’m a proud veteran of the United States Navy, and I’m proud to continue my service—as a member of the Navy’s Ready Reserve and as an employee at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII).

Courtney DartyWorking at NNS allows me to demonstrate every day the core values I learned and lived in the Navy for four years: honor, courage and, most of all, commitment. I’m sharing my story on Veterans Day with the hope that more young Americans will consider serving in the military and reserves and that more Hampton Roads companies will follow HII’s lead and hire veterans.

I grew up in Morgan County, a small little town about 60 minutes east of Atlanta. I really didn’t think college was an option when I graduated from high school in 1997, but I don’t like to just wait for something to happen, so I enlisted in the Navy. I went out on amphibious ships—mostly in the Mediterranean. I left active duty after four years, but I stayed in the reserves. Now I’m in an expeditionary unit. A lot of people say they want to do something, but they don’t do it. I can say I’m doing it.

I used the GI Bill to earn a degree at ECPI, and two years ago, I got a job at NNS. I believe a successful employee is made up 25 percent education, 25 percent experience, and 50 percent character, desire and motivation. Those last three are intangible skills that are not normally put on a resume, but the Navy instilled them in me.

When I was active duty, I served on the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD), which was built by HII. Now I’m building the ships and working the inactivation of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise(CVN 65). I worked on Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) too. I feel pretty good about that because some of those pipes have got my name on them. As long as that ship is floating, I’m going to be a part of it.

One thing about the shipyard, with it being so close with the military, it’s not a problem for me to go and do what I have to do. I have two jobs. I keep my supervisor informed of what I’ve got going on with the military, and I keep the military informed of what I’ve got going on here. I’ve worked with guys that worked for other companies. They don’t take care of their guys like HII does. This company is very good with military people, especially reservists.

When I’m deployed, you can’t tell who’s in the reserves and who’s on active duty. I always tell my guys: If they know you’re a reservist, you’re not doing your job right. The shipyard is a different story. I think they know I’m a veteran because of the way I carry myself. I wore a helmet when I was over in Afghanistan, and now I’ve got a hard hat. Sometimes when I’m walking by officers and I’ve got my hard hat on, I want to salute them. I’ve actually done that—I’ve had to catch myself.

Today, I salute my fellow veterans, including more than 6,000 who continue to serve our nation by working for HII. I also encourage other companies to follow HII’s lead and hire more veterans. Whether they’re a 20-year retiree or a four-year veteran like me, they have made personal sacrifices and dealt with adversity, working as a team to solve problems—all in the name of freedom.

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