Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Aaron Joseph has served eight years in “the world’s finest Navy,” alongside some of “the brightest women and men,” he told Port Townsend High School (PTHS) students Nov. 9, when the school observed Veterans Day.
Joseph is from Naval Magazine Indian Island and has been at duty stations both throughout the United States and around the world.
As a born and bred Bronx native, he couldn’t help but comment on the relatively small class sizes at PTHS, so he encouraged students to “make some noise” to make up for it.
“Veterans Day is about recognizing our veterans, whether future, present or past,” Joseph said. “We all volunteer to stand up, raise our right hands and swear the same oath. Regardless of our personal incentives, it’s a selfless act, because we’re all serving with one big goal in mind, which is that you all can go home and not worry about the sort of stuff you see on CNN.”
Joseph asserted that veterans have earned their honors “whether they served four years or 40,” and noted that those students whose older siblings or parents have served have likely already experienced the impacts that serving in the military can have on a person.
When asked why he chose to enlist in the Navy specifically, Joseph explained that he moved to Atlanta during his high school years, and his new high school had a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).
“The one they had was a Navy JROTC, so I signed up and did two and half years with them,” Joseph said. “After high school, the Navy was the branch of service I felt most familiar with.”
When another student jokingly asked Joseph to explain why the Navy was the best branch of service, Joseph laughed and said, “You’re trying to start a fight up in here,” before giving a sincere answer.
“We like to rag on each other, but every branch has its own esprit de corps,” Joseph said. “In the Navy, you can’t help but have it when you serve on board ship. When you’re deployed for five to eight months at a time, out in the middle of the ocean, you’re waking up together, day in and day out. You feel a sense of camaraderie throughout most military units, but on ship, it’s guaranteed by necessity.”
When an adult in attendance stood up to ask him to explain his rank, Joseph told the audience he was a master-at-arms, whose duties include the functions of both law enforcement and anti-terrorism.
“People talk about military police, but we’re more than that,” Joseph said. “We handle security on land and on the water. If you look out to Indian Island, and see a boat with flashing blue lights, there’s a good chance it’s us.”
When one students asked what advice he would give those considering a military career, Joseph told them, “Be a blank slate. If you’re willing to learn, that will get you far. When I first joined, I thought I knew more than I did. I was a little arrogant. But I figured out that I didn’t know anything. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you plan to fail, then you’ll probably have another plan to succeed.”
Although Joseph has enjoyed Indian Island, he listed Guam among his favorite duty stations, recalling the tropical weather he experienced at his beachfront home in what he described as “the poor man’s Hawaii.” And while he has yet to see combat, he’s ready and willing to do his part, wherever he’s sent next.
When asked what’s kept him in the fleet for eight years, Joseph acknowledged that he’s occasionally considered whether other options would be “better opportunities,” but he credited “my leaders and mentors” in uniform with supporting him and showing him why he needed to stay.
“The Navy has done a lot for me,” Joseph said. “I want to do my best for the Navy in turn.”