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Why I Serve: Childhood Fascination to Adulthood Calling

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

YOKOSUKA, Japan, Sept. 22, 2004 – Alex Celaya remembers walking up to the podium at his kindergarten graduation ceremony in his native Philippines and telling his fellow classmates that he was going to grow up to serve in the U.S. Navy.

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Petty Officer 1st Class Alex Celaya, of Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, attributes his U.S. Navy service to his Filipino family tradition. He said the "military presence in the world is helping keep the peace and deter terrorists."

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

Like many of his Filipino classmates, Celaya was fascinated by the United States. Two of his uncles had joined the U.S. Navy and Celaya remembers watching with excitement as their ships returned from deployments to Subic Bay Naval Base. He longed to follow in their footsteps in what he considered to be a family tradition.

Today, as a petty officer 1st class in the U.S. Navy, Celaya is living his childhood dream in the U.S. Navy. With 15 years of military duty under his belt, he reported here to Fleet Activities Yokosuka last December to serve as a culinary specialist.

Celaya said his military duty has given him the opportunities he'd hoped for and a chance to see much of the world.

But when terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, Celaya said his calling took on a deeper meaning. After gaining his U.S. citizenship just a year and a half earlier, Celaya said he took it just as personally as his fellow shipmates aboard USS Carl Vinson that someone would attack his country.

The Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was en route to the Persian Gulf when the attacks occurred.

"I remember having really mixed emotions, mostly anger," Celaya said, as he recalls watching news of the attack on a shipboard TV. "We wanted to head there to do something to get them back for what they'd done."

Less than a month later, the Vinson was launching some of the first strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan.

Now stationed in Japan, Celaya said he still feels that he and his fellow sailors are playing an important role in the war on terror. It's a threat he recognizes poses as much of a threat to his birthplace where much of his family still lives as to his new adopted country.

"Our military presence in the world is helping keep the peace and deter terrorists," he said. "By being in the military, we're doing our part to help keep peace in the world."

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Fleet Activities Yokosuka
USS Carl Vinson
Why I Serve

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