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The exterior lights of Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) illuminate during sunset, April 1, 2017. Flight deck lights help illuminate the ship and remain on throughout the night until morning colors is called.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

Veterans Day marks the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918 and honors those who served in the armed forces. Formerly celebrated as Armistice Day, until it was renamed in 1954, Veterans Day is a day to not only honor those who have served, but for those still serving, it is an opportunity to reflect on their service and what it means to be a veteran.

For some Sailors like Chief Quartermaster Levi Osmondson, from Abbotsfordd, Wisconsin, assigned to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) navigation department, being called a veteran is more than a title given.

“[I] enlisted in March 2004, so I’ve been in for 16 1/2 years”, said Osmondson. “I was tired of the corn fields and pig and cow smells across the countryside.”

Being a young kid from a small town, when he first enlisted in the Navy it was hard for Osmondson to reconcile the honor of being called a veteran with the inexperience of a brand-new Sailor.

“The first ten years of my career it was tough to realize that being a veteran was a reality,” continued Osmondson. “At that stage I didn’t see myself in the likes of those you see movies made of and statues built for our previous heroes. I have never thought of myself in those regards.”

For other Sailors, like Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Gretchen Jackson, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, assigned to Ford’s aircraft intermediate maintenance department, being a veteran is not only an honor but an integral part of service.

“I am extremely proud to be a veteran. It is a humbling experience when I meet new people who are not as familiar with the military, who are genuinely impressed by what I do for a living, and take the time to thank me for my service,” said Jackson. “My response is always ‘It’s my pleasure!’ because it really is.”

Leaving her hometown of Arden Hills, Minnesota to join the Navy, Jackson was in basic training during one of the most tragic events in American history.

“During boot camp was the fateful day of 9/11. I was sad, scared and angry that anyone would bring harm to so many Americans,” recalled Jackson. “I desperately wanted to be a part of keeping that from ever happening again.”

On Veteran’s Day in particular, Jackson remembers family members that served before her and inspired her.

“My grandfather was a pilot in World War II, and part of the reason why I chose the Navy as my desired branch of service,” said Jackson. “To people such as those and the many thousands more, I am honored to celebrate.”

Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting first-ever integrated carrier strike group operations with Carrier Air Wing EIGHT, Destroyer Squadron TWO and their Air and Missile Defense Commander, Commanding Officer of USS Gettysburg (CG 64).

For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78

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