Service Reflections: How the Navy helped shape Antwone Fisher
Service Reflections: How the Navy helped shape Antwone Fisher
RECORD YOUR OWN SERVICE MEMORIES
A comprehensive, easy-to-complete self-interview called Service Reflections is available on TogetherWeServed.com which enables you to create a permanent record of key people and events from your military service. Your Reflections may be shared with other family members by way of a web address personal to you.
Editor’s note: The following Service Reflections is one of many recorded on TogetherWeServed.com, a secure online community with a membership of over 2 million active-duty and veteran members. This story may contain language which may not be suitable for young children.
SH2 Antwone Fisher
Status: U.S. Navy Retired
Service Years: 1977-1989
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE NAVY?
I was in the world alone and I needed to belong to something meaningful and true. I joined the US Navy and found much, much more.
Historian's Notes: An article written in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Sabrina Eaton on April 23, 2013 goes into great detail about the life of Antwone Fisher. In it she writes that 'Fisher's father was murdered before he was born and his mother was in prison at the time of his birth. He spent 12 years living with a foster family who abused him physically, sexually and verbally before he was sent to a reform school in Western Pennsylvania.
'A few months before he turned 18, a social worker deposited Fisher outside a homeless shelter in downtown Cleveland with $60 in his pocket and no job prospects, telling him he was "emancipated." That situation exposed Fisher to ruthless predators who tried to recruit him for criminal enterprises. He said making rules for himself, such as avoiding drugs and not staying out late, kept him out of trouble while living on the streets.
'After several months of homelessness, Fisher joined the U.S. Navy, which helped him turn his life around. He later worked as a movie studio security guard in Los Angeles, where he met a producer who decided to make a film about his life. His autobiography, Finding Fish, was published in 2001, and the movie Antwone Fisher came out the next year. He now works as an author, movie director and film producer.'
Sabrina Eaton's complete article can be found at:
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
I joined the Navy December 23, 1977, and went to recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois, Company 902. After boot camp, I was sent to Naval Station 32nd Street in San Diego to serve aboard the USS Schenectady LST 1185 as a deck seaman apprentice. It wasn't long after I checked aboard the ship, that I met the Ship Servicemen, and decided that this is the rate I wanted to be. I did the courses for the Ship Serviceman rate, and struck out of deck department and became a member of S3 Division, Ship Serviceman.
By the end of my second year aboard the Schenectady we deployed for my first WESTPAC. After the Schenectady returned from its deployment, I swapped duty to the USS Cleveland LPD 7 and went on its WESTPAC deployment.
I reenlisted in the Navy and was sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to serve aboard the Richard S. Edwards DD 950, and went on WESTPAC deployment. While aboard the Edwards, I was TAD to base police, at Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan. Then I returned to the Edwards, and soon swapped duty to the USS Robert E. Perry FF 1073 for WESTPAC deployment. When I returned from deployment and back to the USS Edwards, she was in the process of being decommissioned, and I was up for shore duty. I was sent across the island and was stationed at NAVCAMS EASTPAC, and served as the assistant manager of the Enlisted Club.
After completing my DoD tour in Hawaii, I reenlisted and was stationed aboard the USS St. LOUIS LKA 116, FORWARD DEPLOYED, and home-ported in Sasebo Japan. After my tour aboard the St. Louis, I extended my enlistment and was sent to Naval Station Long Beach and served aboard the USS Anchorage LSD 39. Months after I checked aboard the Anchorage, she deployed for duty in the Indian Ocean, but I was left behind, TAD to Naval Hospital Long Beach for surgery.
I convalesced there and was eventually transferred to Naval Station Long Beach to continue my convalescence, and was assigned to the Navy Commissary Store, Naval Station Long Beach. When the Anchorage returned from deployment, I resumed my duties aboard the Anchorage. After my tour aboard that ship, and eleven years of military service in the United States Navy, I was honorably discharged, and reentered civilian and life.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ACTIONS WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
I did not participate in combat operation, though I was always willing.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I have the fondest memories of the USS Schenectady. It was my first ship, I made a lot of friends, some of whom I am still friends with today. I would say that that ship and crew ushered me into manhood.
Historian's Notes: USS Schenectady was decommissioned on December 15, 1993 and 'mothballed' at Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On November 23, 2004, she sailed to the open seas and was sunk as a target in operation Resultant Fury, the first time a B-52 dropped self-designated, laser-guided weapons on a moving ship. Photo was taken moments before she began to sink.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
When I made SH2, I remember being so proud that I couldn't sleep the night before I was to tack on my crow.
I remember getting up before everyone in the compartment to put on a new set of dungarees. I was so proud. I still am.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Good Conduct medal I received is the most meaningful medal I received because I thought that I would never receive one.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Stanley Sulkowski (CMDCM ret). One day when I was supposed to be working in the ship's laundry, I knew a former ship of mine was pulling in that day. I slipped off the ship to greet the ship as it was mooring alongside the pier and had a great time talking with a few of my former shipmates before returning back to my own ship, the USS Richard S. Edwards.
I got to the ship, ran up the ladder and onto the gangway, turned to the fantail to salute and there stood my boss, SH1 Sulkowski. I could see in his face that he was angry, but he didn't say a word to me as I hurriedly breezed by him heading back to the ship's laundry. As soon as I entered my workspace I began working double-time to get the laundry out, as I was behind due to having left the ship for over an hour; I just knew that I was in trouble.
After an hour or two, SH1 Sulkowski came down to the laundry to talk to me. He asked me a few questions about the day's work load before asking me what must have been on his mind all morning, "Where did you go, when you left the ship this morning?" I told him where I had gone, and then he replied, "You should have asked". He turned and walk out of the laundry without saying anything more. I was so ashamed for slipping away that morning and because of the way he handled it, because he didn't hammer me for going UA as I expected, I felt even worse. He was a great guy who trusted me and I let him down. SH1 and I are still friends and when we talk about that incident I still become a little ashamed.
I learned a lot from that situation.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
While forward deployed in Sasebo, a few of my shipmates and I planned to get some clothes made in Korea. We had a few very nice suits made along with a few pair of eel skin shoes. They were crazy looking shoes, thinking back on this story.
We were so excited to wear our new outfits when we returned to our home port of Sasebo. We all took the train to Fukuoka, Japan where there was a very nice nightclub that we had planned to show off our custom made suits and shoes.
While we were in the hotel dressing and getting ready to go out on the town, I did notice that it had begun a light drizzle outside my window. Of course I was far too excited to pay it much attention. Before long I and the fellas were out front of the hotel trying to walk to the club which wasn't very far from our hotel.
The guys and I were only halfway there when the light drizzle became an all out downpour and we took off running toward the club which was in sight by this time. That's when I noticed that our clothing was coming apart at the seams. I mean strips of clothing were falling to the ground, a pant leg here, an arm there. Then our shoes came unglued. It was so funny to us that we had planned this outing for months and we were all running up to the club's main entrance half naked wearing, no shoes.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
After the discharge from the Navy, I went to the Federal Law Enforcement Academy and became a Federal Correctional Officer was stationed at The Federal Correctional Facility at Terminal Island.
After three years with the Bureau of Prisons, I began work as a security guard for Sony Pictures. It was here where my life changed dramatically. I had been writing a book about my troubled life in the foster care world. By 2001 I finished my autobiographical book 'Finding Fish.' It ended up on the New York Times Best Seller. Word spread around the Sony lot about my book and before too long, a number of producers asked if they could develop the story into a screenplay. I declined, wanting to write the script myself. Once I had finished by 40th draft, I sold the rights to 20th Century Fox. The film, simply entitled 'Antwone Fisher,' was made in 2002. It was directed by Denzel Washington and starred Derek Luke in the title role. I received credited in the movie as both writer and co-producer.
I am now a director, author, poet, lecturer, professor at UCLA, movie producer and screenwriter. My latest book, 'A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie: And Other Lessons for Succeeding in Life' was published by Simon & Schuster in April 2010. I have a new documentary called 'This Life of Mine- a story of Leon T. Garr' and a short film called 'My Summer Friend.'
Historian's Notes: Fisher is regarded as an expert speaker on the issue of the trauma of foster care. So much so, he appeared before a U.S. Senate Committee in April 2013 where he described in lurid detail the foster care trauma he experienced and ways in which it could be reformed.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
The US Navy saved me from the mean streets of Cleveland, Ohio, where I was literally living. It filled me with self-esteem, of which I had none of when I enlisted. It showed me the world and made me strong, then sent me on my way.
If it were not for the military, the world would never have heard of Antwone Fisher.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE NAVY?
Give the most that you can; get the most that you can.
Remember this time of your life; Be proud to serve. You'll look back on these years and love them dearly.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
Friends I thought about over the years and wondered what ever happened to them. I have reconnected with them here on Togetherweserved.com. It's great to be here!
Photo is Fisher signing DVD copies of his film for sailors stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.
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