“My Way to Escape: Davin Lewis”
“I grew up in a small town of 4,000 called South Point, the most southern point in Ohio. There is a bridge on each side of the town, one going to West Virginia and the other going to Kentucky. It was and still is a very economically depressed area of the country. To say I grew up extremely poor would be an understatement. My family never had much money, and I didn’t have a lot of what other children my age had, with a house surrounded by drugs and alcohol, a mother who abandoned me at sixteen, and dietary staples of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with whatever else welfare could provide.”
Describe to me the moment you decided to join the military. Who or what led you to that decision?
“I graduated near the top of my class in high school, but because my mom had left the picture when I was 16 and I had spent a considerable amount of time living on people’s couches and spare bedrooms, I couldn’t even imagine how I would pay for college. People rarely leave my town, but a friend a few years older than me had joined the Navy and came back home on leave and I was awestruck of the world that existed outside of the Ohio River valley. I had honestly never been anywhere but the three states that made up my childhood my entire life before joining the Navy and never saw the ocean until I was almost 19. When I saw what Johnny had become, I knew that joining the Navy was my way to escape and have a different life.”
What was your job in the Navy? What type of training did you have to undergo to be certified for that position?
“I was a nuclear mechanic on both a ballistic missile and a fast attack submarine. As far as military training goes, our training is pretty rigorous academically. After boot camp, we attend a three month school to learn how to be a mechanic followed by six months at Nuclear Power School learning about reactor and radiation theory. Those six months are followed with another six on an operational reactor used for training to put theory to practice before going to the fleet. Even when you get to your first boat, it takes you around a year to be qualified to operate and do maintenance on the reactor and its subsystems.”
Who are some of the sailors you worked with that had an impact on your service?
“It would be difficult to narrow it down to just a few sailors since so many I served with had such a huge impact on my life. Two that really stand out are some of my greatest friends “Ray Ray” Patak and Kevin Mecozzi. Both were great teammates on and off the boat when things were going well and when times were rough. I even got to give one of my anchors that I wore on my uniform when Kevin was pinned as a Chief. On a steel can where you spend months on end with the same 135 individuals, you all become really close like a larger extended family. Ray, Kevin and I were all in each other’s weddings and still remain great friends. I also stay in touch with many of the sailors I served with.”
When you hear the term “leader” who is the first person that comes to mind?
“I served with many great leaders during my time in the Navy, but one that really stands out is Chief Baier from my first boat. He was a guy that could relate to you on a personal level, never asked his sailors to do anything that he wouldn’t do, took time to really get to know those who worked for him, spoke his mind, and most importantly was able to get people to perform at their best. He always made it a priority to help his sailors develop both personally and professionally.”
Describe to me your most profound experience while wearing a uniform.
“A very profound moment for me was my pinning ceremony where I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. My wife and her family were there along with many friends I had made along my career. It was a culminating moment for me where I realized how far I had come in both my personal and professional life since leaving South Point, Ohio.”
What taste, touch, or smell symbolizes the Navy to you?
“There is a particular smell that submarines have from amine, the chemical used in CO2/Oxygen systems that is unmistakable from anything else. If you talk to any submariner, they are likely to mention the same thing. I was actually in Cleveland over the summer, having been out of the Navy for two years, I took a tour of an old WW2 submarine, and as soon as I stepped foot below deck, I smelled that very unique aroma and instantly felt like I was back in the Navy.”
How has military service changed you? How have you continued to serve after the Navy?
“The Navy has left me with character traits that help distinguish who I am and are very noticeable to others. It gave me an impeccable work ethic, discipline, and taught me how to depend on others as well as how to let others depend on me. Many times in my Naval career I was able to really develop my leadership ability by seeing what others did well, or poorly, and learning how to lead in a way that inspires and motivates people. I now advocate for veterans in higher education specifically at the most elite universities in the country where veterans belong as well as assisting transitioning veterans with the college search and application process. In the summer of 2019, I will start my new job as a strategy consultant for Deloitte’s Government and Public Services practice where I can continue to have an impact on the programs and policies that affect all citizens of this country.”
What should the average civilian know about the military?
“The military really is a very diverse group of men and women who are just like everyone else: mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters. The average civilian doesn’t know much about the military person other than what they see in movies, TV, news or read in books. If they make an attempt to get to know a veteran they would be surprised about what interesting experiences each military member has to share.”
What is your current position as a civilian and how did your Navy experience prepare you for that?
“I am currently a senior at Brown University concentrating in Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations with a focus in business economics. I will be graduating in May of 2019 and starting my first civilian job as a strategy consultant for Deloitte’s Government and Public Services practice. The Navy, and more specifically submarines, was a very challenging environment with a lot of tough guys from very diverse backgrounds and all of that gave me a lot of perspective. While at Brown, I feel that the military has definitely helped me in keeping my bearings when things get stressful because of that perspective. The stress of writing an 8-page paper at an Ivy League institution, while challenging, pales in comparison to being told you have 15 hours to go home, pack your sea bag and get your affairs in order because tomorrow you’re going out to sea for three months.”