Dedicated to Freedom
My name is William Howard. I grew up in a small rural town in the mountains of Virginia. At a very young age, I realized I was destined to serve in the armed forces. My first book report in elementary school was on the Commandant of the Marines. At that young age, I knew I wanted to be a U.S. Marine. Since making that discovery, the years seemed to fly by. When I entered high school, my dream had not changed. Even though I was a talented baseball and football player, I knew I was going to either be a marine or serve in some other branch of the U.S. armed forces.
Then, in the summer of my junior year of high school, I took and passed the military entrance exam (ASVAB). My senior year seemed to go by slowly after that, but eventually I graduated in June of 1987 from Alleghany High School. I immediately met with the marine recruiter in my area and went to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) that summer. It was then that I experienced my first disappointment with the military: I wanted to be a Marine recon, but the Marines wanted me to do something else. I left MEPS that day frustrated at not having been given the chance to do what I’d always dreamed of doing. But a few days later, I met with a U.S. Navy recruiter. It was then that I first learned what a Navy EOD and a Navy Seal were. My interest was piqued, and I knew what I wanted to do.
I left for MEPS a few days later with the Navy recruiter and passed both the physical test and medical physical for the Navy EOD. There was only one catch: I could not leave for boot camp until March of 1988, which was several months away. I went home and could hardly stand the wait. Then, on March 17, 1988, my boyhood dream came true as I left for Navy boot camp. I was excited but nervous, not knowing what to expect. I arrived at boot camp on March 18 in Great Lakes. I thought I would immediately learn what my role in the Navy EOD would be. Instead, I learned about dressing in the right uniform, how to fold my uniform, and how to be where I was supposed to be, on time. I graduated Navy boot camp in June 1988 as a member of class 085, and a day later, I flew to Eglin AFB to begin Navy EOD school. I had waited and worked hard for this for months now.
The EOD instructors greeted us with yelling, screaming, and an intensity like nothing I had ever heard or seen before. The weeks went by quickly: I spent hours a day in physical training and doing classroom work. To this day, I would say the mental training of EOD school was harder than the physical training. Once our time at Eglin was completed, we left for Navy Special Operations school in Coronado, CA. The tough physical demands began on day one, and were nonstop for the next 12 weeks. After almost a year, I graduated with honors from Navy EOD school. I was immediately assigned my permanent duty station on Special Boat Unit 11 in Concord, CA. In March of 1990, I was deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. I served in the Gulf for two years, and in March of 1992, I returned to Alameda, CA, where I remained until the end of my enlistment in March of 1993. I wanted to stay in the Navy; I enjoyed the Navy EOD. But after trying and failing several times to get the Navy to relocate me to the East Coast, I made the decision to leave the Navy, and move to Ohio.
I left the military, but the military and my service never left my heart. I worked in the mortgage industry for several years, but I never forgot my longing to serve. So, in February of 2006, I joined the Ohio National Guard as an infantryman. Upon completion of infantry school, I attended an EOD certification school in Quantico, VA, taught by the FBI. While training there, I was notified that my unit was set to deploy in December of 2007. “I will go” was my immediate response. For 14 months, I was in Iraq. After my time in combat was ended, I returned home to my civilian job and to my National Guard duties.
In September of 2011, I was deployed once again, this time to Afghanistan. I served that tour for 12 months, as well as serving a shortened 6-month tour to Afghanistan in October of 2014. Most recently, I was deployed to Iraq in October 2015. It was there that I was injured on December 27th, and had to return home early to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
I would like to say thank you to all the surgeons, doctors, and therapists who have helped me recover since my injury, and helped me get to where I am today. My enlistment in the Navy and the Army has been an honor; I would not change one thing. Why not, you may ask? Because ever since I was a young country boy in Virginia, I’ve known why I wanted to serve. I’ve known that I would die for freedom, that I would live my life in the military to preserve the freedoms we have as Americans. This is why I enlisted in March of 1988, and this is why I will continue to fight as long as I can.