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Why I Serve: Lincoln Sailor Loves Saving Lives

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Jan. 16, 2005 – "It's rewarding, it really is," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David Loiselle. "I'd much rather do this than sit behind a desk."

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Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David Loiselle, an aviation warfare systems operator with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 47, sits in his squadron's ready room aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of Indonesia. Loiselle and his squadron mates were waiting for a visit from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Thomas Fargo, and U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia B. Lynn Pascoe. Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marrying his wife, Dionna, is the single greatest thing that has happened to Loiselle since he joined the Navy, he said. But, this 29-year-old sailor from Pawtucket, R.I., is quick to add, "other than that, my single biggest personal gratitude is rescuing people. I'd much rather do that than shoot anybody."

Loiselle is an aviation warfare systems operator with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 47, embarked aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Since the ship arrived here off the Indonesian coast Dec. 30, Loiselle has been on helicopter sorties ferrying humanitarian relief supplies to the island of Sumatra's Aceh province nearly every day. He said he finds the relief work personally rewarding.

A trained rescue diver, a year and a half ago Loiselle had a hand in saving the lives of nine Iranian soldiers whose ship had sunk. At the time, he was embarked on the USS Constellation, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

He said nine sailors were alive in the water when rescue operations started, and his team got all nine out alive. After the sailors were rescued, they "were all in our (helicopter), all at once," he said. "It was kind of packed."

When the tsunami hit here Dec. 26, the Lincoln sailors were on shore leave in Hong Kong. When word of the tsunami and the resulting devastation reached them, the sailors were immediately recalled and the Lincoln set a course for Indonesia.

Loiselle said that when he first heard the ship was being diverted to Indonesia, he thought, "Wow, that's cool. It'll be something different -- until I saw how much we were really needed."

He said his first reaction when seeing the widespread damage was shock. The amount of devastation was "100 times worse" than he had believed it would be. "It looked like somebody had just taken a giant Weedwacker to the entire coast," he said.

"I just couldn't believe it," he continued. "I've never seen anything like it - - never thought I'd see anything like it."

The geographic and cultural diversity of the Navy appeals to Loiselle. The two things he appreciates most about the Navy are "the people, hands down, the people" and "all the cool places I've gotten to go." He said he's been to "like 30 countries in the last 10 years."

David and Dionna Loiselle have been married four years, and since then he's missed "every birthday, every anniversary and three out of the four Christmases and Thanksgivings." Still, he said, his wife -- a Navy veteran herself -- understands what the Navy means to him. He said he hopes to have a 30-year career in the service "if they'll let me."

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