The Navy has been an integral part of the military since America’s independence. They work to keep peace on the seas, and defend our country from seaborne attacks.
CPO Leon P. Leidy knows the Navy about as well as anyone — he was in it for almost twenty years. Leidy came from a small town in rural Pennsylvania, and figured that he had two choices out of high school: go to college or join the military. He decided to follow his older brother’s path into the Navy.
“The positive part about the Navy compared to the other branches is you have more ratings — more job titles — where you can actually learn things that translate into civilian occupations,” Leidy explained.
With over 60 career fields to choose from, the Navy gives sailors the tools they need to be successful, both in service and out. Veterans often struggle with unemployment in the civilian world, and having applicable job skills can make all the difference.
The 1970s wasn’t a great time to be in the service. The taint of Vietnam still hung over America, and much of the public disliked service members. On top of that, the military had little to no support from a Carter-run government.
“The funny part is that Jimmy Carter was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve, and he was a submarine guy too, but he didn’t put money into the military,” Leidy recalled. “There was a lot of people using drugs when I first went in; they just didn’t have that pride and professionalism.”
Leidy joined up in mid 1979, and by January of ‘81, there was a new administration. President Ronald Reagan was focused on building and expanding the military to compete with the Soviet Union.
“The military changed overnight,” Leidy said.
“Advancement was a lot faster back in the ‘80s, and we got paid a lot more. But at the same time the people in the military just had a better feel.”
This boost in morale fostered a much stronger military environment. There was a new sense of camaraderie that bonded service members together. Leidy found much of this fellowship through sports; athletic leagues that were formed on bases allowed him to play football and basketball whenever he wasn’t working. He looks back on this as his best time in the military.
“The great part of the military is that it is all about competition,” Leidy stated. “And I believe competition makes all of us strive to be better at what we do.”
After the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a large drawdown of military forces. Between 1992 and 1999, they paired down 30% of the military. It was much harder to make rank, and many service members were offered early retirement and buyout packages. Leidy was turned down twice for retirement before finally retiring in 1999, barely shy of his 20 year mark.
“It was just the right timing for me to go,” Leidy said.
Currently, he works as a personal trainer in the Seattle area. It was a decades-long dream that he made a reality in his early 50s, when he went to school for his certification.
He credits his passion for fitness to his time in the Navy.
“The reason that I became a personal trainer — and wanted to for many years — was that on my last submarine, the executive officer offered me a collateral duty as command fitness coordinator,” Leidy said.
After working the program for a year and a half, Leidy discovered just how much he enjoyed helping people with their fitness. Now, almost two decades later, he has made it into his career. In fact, Leidy credits a lot of who he is to the Navy. He wakes up early every day due to habits developed in the military. He has more discipline, focus, and attention to detail. But his biggest takeaway is a pretty simple one: hard work.
“I think the people who don’t work hard just kind of exist…”
“But the people who do work hard, and really learn their jobs, are the people that are most successful. And I learned that from the military.”