Veterans Committee

The Veterans Committee is dedicated to our Brothers and Sisters who have served in the armed forces.  The current Chair of the Committee is a Marine Veteran, Mike McWhirter.  Contact him at 1 800 243-1985 or for more information or how to join this committee.

Members – Mike McWhirter, Chair – Marseille Allen – Heather Blaszczyk  – Suzan Forch  – Ted Gregg –  Ed Helwig –  Claude Johnson –  Steve Karber  – Kenneth Lester  – Eric Sales –  James Scruggs –  Melissa Tichelaar –  Catherine Wendlin

Why I Served – An Interview With Melissa Tichelaar by Mike McWhirter

M.T. – Let me know if you need more from me. I’m really not used to talking about me. It feels weird. lol

M.W. – What were you doing before you entered the service and how old were you?

B.T. – Prior to joining the service I was working in retail for just over minimum wage. I was 24 and had a new car and insurance and was still living with Mom and Dad because minimum wage covered the car but didn’t allow for rent. I had always wanted to travel. I decided to join the Navy it allowed me to pay my bills, travel, and live on my own.

M.W. – Why did you choose that branch of service and what was your occupation?

M.T. – In all honesty I chose the Navy because I thought I would travel to places that were much different then where I grew up. I wanted to see new places and I had always wanted to see the ocean. I knew a retired Chief and had listened to his stories. Except for his stories, my knowledge of the Navy and the military were very limited. I was the first woman in my family to join the military, and the first person in my immediate family to join since my Grandfather who had served in the Army Air Corp.

M.W. – What was your duty and stations?

M.T. – I was a Seabee in the Navy. My job was not a traditional female job, I was a builder. I was one of the first females who were allowed to be in the Seabees. At the time I joined we were only allowed to go to Amphibs or to Public Works. We were not allowed on Dets or Battalions. My boot camp was in Orlando Florida. I was in one of the first integrated companies, and it was summer in Florida. I turned 25 in boot camp. My A-school was in Gulfport, MS. I was the only female builder in a class of 19, and the oldest. To be old at the ripe old age of 25. lol My first duty station was Souda Bay, Crete, an island in Greece. I was in public works. It was on the Mediterranean Sea, and I have to say it was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. After Greece I went to Sigonella, Sicily. I also worked in public works at this duty station. M.W. – How long were you in the Navy? M.T. – I was in the Navy for almost 3 years. M.W. – What did you do after the Navy? M.T. – After the Navy I raised my kids, had some part time jobs, and eventually finished my college degree in Legal Studies.

M.W. – What message would you like this to say to females who want to join the military?

M.T. – My experience in the Navy had many more up experiences then down experiences. The thing I think females should hear may be that most men in the Navy are accepting; even in non-traditional jobs like I had however there are many different backgrounds and mindsets in the military in general. There will be that occasional person who has a clear cut mind of where your place is. I did deal with that on occasion, for me it just made me dig in harder. I belonged there and I did my job and I did it to the best of my ability and didn’t let negative define me or where I was going. I gained respect from most and overall my experience had a very positive effect on my life. I found out I was capable of a lot more then I would have thought without having joined.

We will be doing interviews of Veterans in the future to find out “Why I Served”