Shawn Stevens, a WOW vidtographer, married a Realtor and has his real estate license; therefore, it seems fitting for him to work with a real estate photography company like WOW. Before Shawn was interested in real estate, however, he served in the United States Navy. This Memorial Day, WOW would like to thank him and everyone else who has served. We honor him by sharing his story.

Three weeks after graduating high school, Shawn headed to boot camp. He chose to enlist with the Navy because he was fascinated with the ocean, and because of seeing the planes in the movie “Top Gun” while he was in high school, he wanted to work on an aircraft carrier. For eight weeks, Shawn trained in Great Lakes, Illinois. He had hoped to work in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), but when he could not pass the swim test, they told him he could go home. Yet Shawn was not ready to give up; “I just graduated boot camp, so I picked something else.” He chose to work in ABH (Aviation Boatswain’s Mates, Aircraft Handling) and went to Accession School (or A School) in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Wanting to work on a flight deck, Shawn chose the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a nuclear-powered ship stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. The November after he enlisted, Shawn became a “blue shirt” (the Navy designates different positions with different color shirts- blue shirts drive tractors, operate elevators, and help planes move around the deck).

As a blue shirt, Shawn worked twelve-hour shifts. His day began on the deck hearing the POD (plan of the day), including the flight schedule. Then the planes were called to be manned, started, and ready to launch. Once the planes were launched, blue shirts had a ten to fifteen minute break before they launched the second wave of planes. After another break, the first wave of planes was back. This cycle continued throughout Shawn’s shift and for a total of sixteen to eighteen hours each day. During his time in the Navy, Shawn worked his way up to the rank of yellow shirt, which is an upper management position and one of the highest he could achieve during his tenure. Planes did not take off without yellow shirts’ direction; because pilots could not see the deck below their planes but yellow shirts on the deck could, they had the responsibility of letting pilots know when the deck was clear for them to take off. Shawn misses the experience of being so close to aircraft; he describes “thirty to forty planes taking off two feet away from you” with the word “thrill.” 

One aspect of the Navy Shawn does not miss is being in port. “There’s not much to do except painting and cleaning. It’s the stuff that has to be done, but it’s boring. The action’s out at sea.” While working on the ship in port was boring, exploring the places where they docked was not. In port, Shawn worked from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., leaving time for him and his fellow sailors to experience the places where they were in port. Though they were required to return to the ship to sleep every night, they had the freedom to venture into the places where they were docked, either on tours or on their own. Seeing these places was one of Shawn’s favorite parts of being in the Navy. He explored the Virgin Islands; Saint Thomas; Portsmouth, England; Palma, Spain; Toulon, Versailles, and Cannes in France; Dubai, UAE; Naples, Italy; and Egypt. He visited the Cannes Film Festival and in Toulon, he and a few friends visited a zoo on top of a mountain. 

One moment from his service Shawn will never forget was during the first Gulf War. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Shawn was in Naples. All the sailors onshore- including Shawn- were rushed back onto the boat. They put as much from the flight deck into the hangar below as they could and tied down the planes on the deck. The next morning, they were seven hundred miles away in the Suez Canal. Shawn still remembers being escorted through the canal by the Egyptian army. Part of the first Desert Shield response, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was the second carrier stationed there.

To celebrate Memorial Day, the ship or the Navy would facilitate events, but at the age of nineteen or twenty, Shawn and his friends “cared more about getting the job done so we could get on with our day and do what we wanted to. At that time, we didn’t care.” As a veteran, though, Memorial Day to Shawn now is a time to “reflect on the ones that did give their lives. I understand what it was like [to serve], what they sacrificed and what they went through.” One item on Shawn’s bucket list is to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona to “pay my respects for the ones that went before me”. The difference in the times of their service makes no difference to Shawn; the military is a “brotherhood; you might make fun of each other but you know what it’s like, you all went through the same things.” WOW thanks Shawn and every veteran for their service this Memorial Day.