Thursday, November 9, 2017

Veterans' Voices from LifeBio: Ronald Max Bailey

In honor of Veterans Day, we are featuring stories of Front Porch residents who served in our armed forces. This is the story of Ronald Max Bailey, an England Oaks Retirement Community resident, who began his service in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

"I served in the United States Navy. I was on active duty from September 1970 until October 1982. I achieved the rank of Senior Chief while I was on active duty. I then served in the Reserves from 1983-1996, and I was promoted to Warrant Officer CW2 while in the Naval Reserves.

I attended Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Biology. During this time, I married my wife, and we have now been together 46 years. My reason for receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Biology was because I planned to be a teacher. Plans changed.

I enlisted in the Navy, so that I was not drafted. It was my decision to enlist, because I wanted to serve my country by ensuring the Navy ships accomplished their missions. I liked watching ships when I was young. I also liked traveling.  

It was bittersweet for me to leave home. My wife was expecting our son and even though she was very anxious, she saw me off. After about two months, it was requested by our OB that I should be allowed to come home for the birth of our son, as it was going to be a risky delivery. I was there for three or four days before we knew he was out of danger.

Boot camp was an initiation to Hell Week! I lost about 30-40 pounds during boot camp. We had many hours of rigorous exercises and the food was very BAD! I was one of a few enlistees who could type, so I did that most of the time. That was a great escape for me, as I enjoyed the air conditioned office and not having to complete most of the exercises.

After completing boot camp, I received specialization in my Naval Rate as Machinist Mate. When I went to my first duty station in Alameda, California, I got to be more hands-on at nuclear power plants in my rate of Machinist Mate. After completing my required schooling, I stayed in Alameda, California, for about six months before I was told to go to the nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. Life on an aircraft carrier is like living on a floating city. Like any other job in the civilian world, if you do your job well and promptly, everyone was happy.

I did not see any actual combat, because the Enterprise was out at sea. The aircraft completing missions took off from the carrier. Some returned in bad condition, but they were home safe and sound. Even though we did not see combat, I felt proud that I was completing my assigned tasks to the best of my ability. My most memorable experience was in our port of call in Tasmania. The locals met the ship and took several of us home to eat, sight-see, and talk! The family I went home with treated me very well. We ate wonderful home-cooked meals, did a lot of guided sight-seeing, and just having a comfortable bed was great. 

My wife and mother wrote a lot of letters and we were able to call home some during long deployments. The letters acted as a link between my wife, son, and parents. My wife wrote many more letters than I did, which was a source of support for me. This, along with my faith in God, got me through rough times.  

My last duty command was under Captain Hilt, who was in command of the USS South Carolina (CGN 37). He was a good leader, in that our whole command received the Enlisted Surface Warfare Service Award. My wife worked with Mrs. Hilt in the Wives Club and as an ombudsman! Being on my last deployment to the home port of Norfolk was bittersweet, as I knew my discharge from the Navy was near. I truly loved my service in the U.S. Navy. We were welcomed home by a huge mass of people who met the ship. The community was a great welcome, too.

Upon my discharge from the Navy, I worked for three nuclear power plants as an instructor for new operators. I also spent several years employed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I did many on-site inspections of nuclear power plants in many states. I would have stayed in the Navy longer, but deployments were often long and in-port time was not nearly long enough. One of my deployments lasted 13 months. All in all, I was very proud of being a sailor in our U.S. Navy. I felt I was doing my part to protect our country!”

-Ronald Max Bailey

LifeBio is an engagement program that captures cherished memories and lasting legacies through storytelling. Since launching in 2000, LifeBio has helped 20,000 people tell their life stories through autobiographical tools and services for all levels of care. LifeBio uses technologies as mediums to help individual document their stories in an easy and unique way such as tablets, web cams, and audio and video equipment. LifeBio has been a partner with Front Porch since 2009. For more details, check out LifeBio’s Impact Story on the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) website.

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