Sailors reflect on their Navy service

Medics from the Naval Air Station Fallon's Branch Health Clinic participate in a mock chemical spill drill on early 2012.

Medics from the Naval Air Station Fallon's Branch Health Clinic participate in a mock chemical spill drill on early 2012.

Veterans at Naval Air Station Fallon said they enjoy serving their nation with pride and commitment.

As the nation readies itself to thank millions of veterans on Monday, four corpsmen at the Naval Branch Health Clinic reflected on their service and what it is like to be a veteran.

HM1 John Alegre marks a milestone in December when he celebrates 19 years in the U.S. Navy.

“I joined in back in 1994 and joined basically because of pride,” said Alegre, who is from San Diego. “My dad was in the Navy and was a cook until he retired. I had always planned to join the Navy, but I thought it would be a one-time enlistment … and now ‘boom,’ I am close to retirement.”

Alegre said he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and see what the Navy offered.

“I was always fascinated with ships as a kid,” he said.

The petty officer oversees the clinic’s operations and takes care of his 24 junior sailors administratively, professionally and personally.

Alegre said he would like to stay past 20 years, but his tenure depends on advancing to chief petty officer during the next promotion cycle. If he doesn’t receive a promotion, Alegre said he will transition to the “civilian world.”

In looking forward to Veterans Day, Alegre, who deployed twice — Kosovo in 1999 and Iraq’s Camp Fallujah — said he is amazed how people respect the military.

“It makes me feel good to be appreciated by so many,” he said. “I have done something for our country to secure our freedom and democracy.”

HM3 Nicholas Ponce of Riverside, Calif., celebrated his fourth year in the Navy this week.

“I had an uncle who was a retired Navy SEAL,” Ponce explained. “He was the one who introduced me to get into the service. Initially, I wanted to go the Army route, but he spoke to me (about the Navy).”

Yet, it was a book that led to the final persuasion to join the Navy as a medical corpsman. Ponce said he read “Flags of Our Father” and was intrigued with a Navy corpsman who worked alongside Marines.

During his four years in the military, Ponce deployed three times, once to Jordan and twice to Afghanistan.

“I deployed to Jordan to train the Jordanians so they could go to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” Ponce said. “I deployed to Helmand Province (Afghanistan) both times where there was a large Marine contingent down there.”

Ponce recently arrived in Fallon from Twentynine Palms Air Ground Combat Center. At the local clinic, he sees patients by taking their vitals before a physician’s assistant or doctor sees them.

According to Ponce, he said Veterans Day is a time to honor all men and women who have served in the military.

“It’s honoring our fallen and those currently serving … overseas, here at the clinic on hospital ships. We recognize their sacrifices and also thank the families and the sacrifices they have made,” he said. “Veterans Day we take time to say thank you to our veterans.”

HM2 Brittany Robinson of Eustis, Fla., has served in the Navy for eight years even though her family is deep-rooted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“My mother’s and father’s side of the family were all Marines, but there was no way in a dark place they would let me do that,” Robinson said of her enlistment. “So, I joined the Navy.”

Initially, Robinson said she was not interested in the medical field but instead became a military policewoman.

“But I found a way to go corpsman,” she said, “and this was the best decision I ever made.”

A petty officer in the dental branch, Robinson, who has been in Fallon for more than two years, said she ensures supply issues, appointments and readiness are met.

“I love this area,” she said.

Robinson has been on many deployments, but one stands out. She was involved in combined military humanitarian mission to Indonesia about a month before Veterans Day several years ago. She also deployed to Iraq twice and Kuwait and also served on a sea deployment.

Robinson said veterans take their service seriously.

“Americans aren’t afraid to do this for their country and that’s to bleed, sweat and shed tears no matter where they are,” she added.

HM1 Mark Webb grew up in Washington D.C., and has spent 16 years in the Navy. His father also served in the Navy, and other relatives were in other branches.

“I wanted to see the world, see something different,” Webb said.

Webb came to Fallon five months ago from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, prompting him to chuckle, he transferred from one desert to another but only colder. At NAS Fallon, Webb is a leading petty officer and senior lab technician.

Webb said he has enjoyed his time in the military and serving both active and retired veterans in a small town like Fallon.

“It makes me feel proud and also humbling for what we do,” he said. “It makes me feel wonderful.”


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