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Change for the Better: Life in the Military

A pastor shares his experiences in the Navy.

By Larry Manley

In 1971, I joined the United States Navy as a 17-year-old country kid who wanted to see the world, but I didn’t anticipate the reality of what I was getting myself into. I had always been adventurous growing up, one quick to try new and dangerous things.

Shortly after I started boot camp in Orlando, Fla., my close friend died from spinal meningitis at the camp.  Unfortunately, I turned my pain into anger towards the military and blamed them for my friend’s death.

After boot camp I was sent to Groton, Conn., for submarine school and refused to apply myself there. I was then sent to Norfolk, Va., where I was placed upon an ammunition ship and was sent into the Mediterranean. By the time I returned to my homeport in Norfolk I decided that neither the Navy nor any other military life was for me.

My life went downhill from that point on: drugs, prison, addictions, homelessness, hopelessness, etc.

As I look back over it all, I can clearly see that the Navy would have made a better man out of me if I had only allowed myself to be patient and learn, but my rebelliousness took me astray.

Over the decades of hardships and disgust, broken marriages, family and friends, I’ve learned that I can make a good and decent life for myself.

As I look back over my time in the military, I realize it was a great opportunity for me to go far in life. I suggest to all of my readers who may be actively involved at present to take full advantage of everything that it has to offer. After all, it’s not just a job, it’s truly an adventure when engaged in correctly.

After many years of hurt, failures, and pain through my own self-inflicted injuries, I finally became what life wanted me to be: an author, writer, pastor, business and family man. Though I was resistant to letting the military change me, it nevertheless affected me and my perspective on life. I will never forget my experiences in the Navy or where I came from. 

Dr. Larry Manley is the executive director and senior pastor of the House of Destiny International Ministries. He is a counselor, teacher, minister, mentor, inspirational public speaker, and published author of the Majestic One, Jungle Within, and his latest book, Filling My Life with Joy /A Guide to the Better You.

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