How Hard Is It To Get Into Applied Math Phd Never Give Up! A Story of Incredible Strength of Will and A Man Who Followed His Dreams

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Never Give Up! A Story of Incredible Strength of Will and A Man Who Followed His Dreams

When I was 21, I had the wonderful fortune of working alongside a man who was already considered a legend in his field. Later, the world would be introduced to him through a successful film. His name was Carl Brashear, but I called him Chief – short for Master Chief Carl Maxie Brashear USN You may have never heard of him, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen the movie or TV show about the his life His life inspired the movie “Men of Honor” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. like Chief Brashear. It also stars Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron and Hal Holbrook. But, this article is not about the movie. You can check it out for yourself and I recommend renting it soon.

This story is about never giving up. There is already a lot of talk in the media about how 2008 will be difficult for business. And, you know what? If you believe this, I can assure you it will be, for you. But if you focus on one goal and tell yourself that you will never, ever give up, I can assure you that it will be a good year for you. Much of what happens in our lives has to do with how we believe and what we value. Chief Brashear summed up the belief that you never give up. Here’s a bit of his story.

When he enlisted in early 1948, the Navy had barely been desegregated and after basic training he was assigned to an officer’s mess as a butler who served meals and polished officers’ shoes. But, he wanted something more in life and while watching some divers working on an aircraft carrier one day, he decided he would become a deep diver. He applied to the school, but was told there were no “colored” divers in the Navy. He replied that they were about to get the first one. In 1954, he became the first African-American to attend and graduate from the United States Navy’s Diving and Salvage School. He later became a Master Diver and a Master Chief Petty Officer, the Navy’s first.

I met the boss under tense circumstances. He was scheduled to be discharged from the Navy in November 1970 after serving just over three years. I wasn’t supposed to be discharged until a year later, but I was one of the thousands who qualified for an early discharge at the time. I was really looking forward to starting my career as a civilian photojournalist when I immediately received new assignments. It seemed the USS Recovery ARS-43 needed someone with my unique skill set and rank (at least that’s what my commanding officer told me) and it wasn’t coming out anytime soon. Instead, he was going to spend another year at sea and most likely six months in the Mediterranean. I wasn’t happy.

A few months after I had already reported to Recovery, Chief Brashear was receiving orders to report to the same ship to take on the role of Master Diver. Funny how life works, but the coincidence of receiving orders on the same ship would change my life. I wouldn’t appreciate how much until years later.

Soon after settling in on board, I started getting to know the people I would be working with. One of them, a first class diver by the name of George Caswell, brought me up to date on Carl Brashear’s life when we found out he was going to be the new Master Diver. He told me the story of how in 1966, Chief Brashear had been working on the USS Hoist. They were retrieving a nuclear bomb that had been lost when two of our planes collided while refueling near the Canary Islands. During the operations a rigging line broke and a metal pipe flew out and caught Chief Brashear’s left leg below the knee and nearly severed it. He spent the next two years rehabilitating his amputated leg. But instead of being discharged or taking a desk job, Chief Brashear was determined to be reinstated as a diver. In April 1968, he became the first amputee to be certified as a Navy rescue and salvage diver. Two years later, he and I met in Recovery.

As I mentioned before, I wasn’t particularly happy about having to serve another year at sea. But I made the most of it and quickly gained the support of the operations officer I reported to and my commanding officer. I was actually given permission to start a ship journal while we were off on a six month “Med Cruise”. Journaling gave me a creative outlet and I really enjoyed it as I had worked as a newspaper reporter and photographer before enlisting. I wrote on a manual typewriter with a two-layer spirit master and then ran it on a ditto typewriter. The first issues were mainly about the ports we visited with some current news. But it wasn’t long before I decided to start writing opinion pieces. We were somewhere off the coast of Italy when I wrote my take on the Vietnam War, President Nixon, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a single issue.

According to the newspapers, he succeeded in causing a great furore. My operations officer told me that it actually caused a shouting match at dinner that night in the officers’ mess. The career men on board (which would include Chief Brashear) were not pleased with my views and many shared their views of me with me. The next day, the captain ended by explaining to me that as a petty officer in the United States Navy, I was not at liberty to express my opinions about either our commander in chief or the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I think it was my claim that the term “military justice is an oxymoron” that hurt them the most. That was the end of the ship’s role.

That evening, after news of the newspaper’s cancellation spread, I was on watch at the Combat Information Center (my office) when I knocked on my locked door. Looking through the porthole I saw it was Chief Brashear. He had never visited me before so I expected him to have something to say about the paper. But, he didn’t mention it. He just said he was on the bridge and thought he would stop to chat. He then asked if I would like to join him in the mate’s closet (his office) after he got off duty to “train” with him. He had a look in his eyes that told me I would be out of my mind to accept that invitation. Apparently he wasn’t amused by my opinions either. I told him I didn’t think I would join him and he said ok and that was the end of the discussion. For the next few weeks, I stayed away from him except when we had to work together and he ignored me except to look at me occasionally. Call it relaxation. But then something happened that changed everything.

The ship did not have the quotient of officers on board and the result was that the officers had to be on 12 hours watch and 12 hours off as Officer Awaining Deck (UOOD). The UOOD is the person who gives orders on the bridge while the ship is underway. He is in charge of giving navigational orders, of avoiding collision with anything and of guaranteeing the safety of the ship and its sailors. One day the operations officer was complaining about the watches when he said to me in no uncertain terms, “You should be watching UOOD since you teach us anyway.” It was true that part of my job was to teach the new officers some of the things they needed to know to qualify as a UOOD. I said I would like to if the Navy ever decided to let an enlisted man drive a ship under way. I didn’t think about it anymore.

Now it happened that the operations officer was a tenacious investigator. He checked all the regulations and found none that said you actually had to be a commissioned officer to qualify as an officer in progress of the deck. You just had to pass a written test and be certified by the captain. Somehow, he convinced the captain to let me take the test. I passed it and the next thing I knew the captain had certified me as a UOOD and I was put on the watch rotation. In those days, if we weren’t rescuing or salvaging, we usually spent time doing drills and also shadowing Russian trawler “spy ships” which made for some interesting watches like UOOD.

I was standing one of my first watches (it might have been the first) when Chief Brashear came to the bridge. We were going through the formal ritual of changing UOODs which involved me saying “this is Petty Officer Poole and I have Deck and Conn”. I remember looking at Chief Brashear who had a look of disbelief on his face. I had never seen an enlisted man receive the Deck or Conn on the march. At the time it was unheard of.

The next day I found the boss, once again, visiting my office for a chat. I wanted to know how it was that I was standing a UOOD watch. And, I wanted to know how I could do the same. I told him there was no rule that said he couldn’t and that he could do the same test as me as long as the captain was okay. I told him I would help him with the things he needed to know that he wasn’t yet familiar with and a few weeks later, Master Chief Brashear was certified as an Officer of the Deck.

From then on we started talking about our lives and our future when one of us was on a night watch and things were quiet on the bridge. I told him how I was going to continue in photojournalism or even studio photography. He told me about his life since he was born in Kentucky, the son of sharecroppers. He never complained about the prejudice he faced in becoming a diver. He never regretted the loss of his leg. Instead, he talked about never giving up on your dreams and wanting to experience as much as possible in life. I learned that when he wanted to go to first class diver school, he couldn’t pass the first time because of the math, physics and chemistry they required. He had enlisted with only a primary education. He enrolled at the Armed Forces Institute and worked for three years to master the necessary scientific skills. He earned his GED and returned to First Class Diver’s School where he graduated third in his class.

He got excited when he talked about my future and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted in life. He was one of the toughest men I have ever met. But, he was harder on himself than anyone else. He didn’t know the meaning of “you can’t do it” and he pushed himself to endure mental, emotional and physical pain that would break most others because he couldn’t accept giving up. It taught me a lot about not letting someone else take your dreams away.

Master Chief Brashear died of respiratory and heart failure in 2006. How a man with a heart as big as his could die of heart failure is a mystery of nature. His son, Phillip Brashear, said at his funeral that even as he lay dying, his father seemed unwilling to let go of a life of determination. “Even though his lungs failed, his heart was still beating.” Carl Brashear showed us all that a human being is capable of when faced with overwhelming odds. Think about this when you find yourself thinking how 2008 is going to be a “tough year” for business. Go rent the movie “Men of Honor.” You may find yourself saying, “Never give up.”

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