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Change for the Better: Life in the Military

Senior Pastor Larry Manley shares his experiences in the Navy.

In 1971, I joined the United States Navy as a 17-year-old country kid that 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.

Matt Gaffney November 10, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I was in the Navy from 1970-1973. I met & keep in touch with some great guys. I saw a lot of the world as a sailor. After getting out I've used my VA benefits a lot. I bought my first new car from going to night school at Saddleback with my VA money. I bought my first house with a VA home loan. I've been using my VA health benefits for some time now. All in all I've been able to capitalize on my time in the Navy. I'm a Life Member of Serra Post VFW 3801 & a two time Past Commander of american Legion Post 721. My Dad told me when I was a 19yr. old Sailor that I'd be glad I served. I didn't see it then, but I sure see it now.
Andromeda November 11, 2012 at 07:29 AM
Not everybody is cut out for the military. Signing up for 3 or 4 years without knowing what you're getting into is a big mistake. Look before you leap. Your NCOIC could be a complete idiot and make your life miserable. It's not just another job that you can walk away from. Go talk to lots of people who've been there and get their opinions before you sign up. And don't just talk to lifers. Talk to people who served 3-4 years and got out. That's my suggestion.
Charles November 11, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Sounds like a typical "born again" transformation. A person "hitting bottom" due to drugs, alcohol, prison, depression, alcoholism, etc "finds Jesus" as a psychological survival mechanism alternative to suicide. It happens all the time - and almost always to those who are in bad shape. The overwhelming majority of these born again folks are the ones who "hit bottom". Few mentally healthy people make that transformation. But since the ends justifies the means, and happiness trumps reality, Living a delusion is better than prison or suicide. And after all, he'd appreciate the coin if you bought his book too.
Andromeda November 11, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Dr. Manley - perhaps you could enlighten us as to how you were able to accumulate the finances to pay for your higher education after hitting so many bumps in the road in your life? I know people who don't even smoke or drink and have a clean criminal history who can't even afford to pay for community college fees let alone fund a doctorate. How did you happen to swing it? Perhaps you could enlighten us in your next editorial. Thanks.
Patti Bout November 11, 2012 at 05:12 PM
student loans, grants, family, friends - lots of ways to finance higher education. and since he was in the service, the va has educational benefits

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