So far, most of the people I have interviewed for this blog have joined the military because they were searching for something. Maybe they felt lost, maybe they needed a clearer career path and skills to get there or maybe they were looking for adventure. For Dave Barksdale, it was family tradition. Just like his father and grandfather before him, Dave joined the Navy in 1985 and served active duty for over two decades.
Entering the Fleet Reserve midnight, January 31st, 2009 at the rank of Chief Petty Officer (E7), Dave’s active-duty career has been a colorful one. Serving on seven different ships in his career, Dave’s specialties have ranged from fire control to air search and missile Guidance RADAR systems to Tomahawk missile systems. His experience and skill set have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Australia to Japan to Kenya to name a few of the countries Dave has visited. He admits he has had too many deployments to count.
The chance to see the world gave Dave the opportunity to experience cultures and events that I have only read about. Dave has attended the Chinese New Year visited the tomb of Job in Oman and played hacky sack on top of a pyramid in Guatemala.
“Eating frankincense from a tree older then America blew my mind,” reminisced Dave.
Through his own selfless service, Dave learned lessons all over the world. Meeting the aboriginal people in Perth taught him to cherish what he has. In Dave’s experience, people were generally friendly and happy to see him and his fellow sailors. Immersed in dozens of cultures throughout his career has given Dave a unique outlook on life.
“Even in the harshest countries you could always find someone who had no political agenda and would welcome you with open arms,” remembers Dave.
Despite his incredible experiences, a life of military service is never just fun and games and certainly comes with its challenges. Serving during a time when the internet was not what it is today, a sailor survived on snail mail, with an emphasis on the word snail. Mail came but once a month on average and learning of family events so delayed could be agonizing. Even after Dave was married, a new wealth of challenges was brought on. Though a sailor’s work could be dangerous in itself, one of the greatest fears is that something would happen to your family back home leaving you unaware and helpless for a month or much longer.
“Your heart and soul always long to be near those at home,” explains Dave.
Although family at home was a distant thought, each sailor walks away from the Navy with a new family. As Dave and many veterans will tell you, one of the best parts of the military lifestyle is the unbreakable bond you form with your newfound brothers and sisters. Combat only makes these bonds stronger in the moments when you truly have no one else to rely on but your shipmates, overcoming that adversity creates a deep love that lasts until your last breath.
Despite any challenges one faces in the military, Dave recommends serving to anyone, even if only for a couple years. Although a military career might not be for everyone, the experiences are invaluable.
In Dave’s opinion, the Armed Forces are receiving the best support they have ever known. Unfortunately, there will still be those who refer to Dave and his comrades as “baby killers” with some opponents of the military not being above spitting on servicemen and women, for the most part the public appears to support the military. Dave points to ignorance as the greatest threat to the military and believes there have been great strides made by to the public to better understand what the military is doing, hence offering more support.
Like I’ve heard so many times before, one of the greatest struggles veterans face is getting on their feet after serving. Dave told me stories about retired veterans passing away for what appears to be no apparent reason. Whether it be suicide or simply wasting away, it’s extremely difficult to adjust to a “normal” society after living in a high stress and structured environment for so many years. As civilians, it is our duty to do our best to understand and learn about their experiences, recognize extreme signs of distress and offer support and opportunity through jobs and training so that veterans feel as comfortable as possible in the civilian lifestyle.
One topic that has and will always interest me is women in the military. Dave admits that in the beginning of military genderization he was against it. He saw women in supporting shore roles only. After he had a couple female supervisors his views started to change, though there have been issues with fraternization among crews. As Dave notes, it’s very difficult to take men and women directly out of high school and expect them to keep their hormones in check. This can be a problem in any career field, military or not, but when men and women are stuck on a boat for months at a time, you can only imagine what might happen. Although many times, many of these cases are wanted by both parties, unfortunately, as we all know, the military isn’t immune to cases of sexual assault etc. But that issue is for another blog, at another time.
Dave has no problem with women serving in our military. He does feel that there will always be those isolated incidents between men and women no matter how much training you put them through. I met Dave through the Miss America program where he is one of Washington’s most valued employees. Dave believes in women empowerment and I am in awe of how much time he puts into volunteering to help young women such as I better myself.
Dave is currently employed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes as a maintenance technician. He also operates Depoe Barksdale Studios; a video and photography studio that has contributes to the Miss Washington organization but takes on other projects as well.
“A life of service is a life well spent,” are words of wisdom Dave lives by and his actions show he takes those words very seriously. He considers serving his country with honor and distinction his greatest achievement and he continues to live a life of service. With volunteering being his main hobby, (listening to Electronic Dance Music a close second J) Dave doesn’t plan on changing any time soon.