Lessons learned from a 23-year career in the U.S. Navy

I can honestly say that I never intended to join the Navy when I graduated high school. I pictured myself as the next Stan Lee or Jack Kirby, fixated on attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and becoming a comic book artist. It was my first time living away from home and I made a lot of mistakes that eventually brought me right back home with Mom and Dad. Needless to say, my prospects of getting into another college or even a job were slim. That was when my retired U.S. Marine Corps father suggested (for lack of a better term) joining the military.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea but there weren’t many options for me. You see, I come from a military family. My Mom and Dad were in the Navy and Marines respectively. My brother, sister-in-law, two uncles were Marines, one uncle and a cousin were Sailors and my grandfather served in the Navy in World War II.

Chief Journalist Mark Piggott aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) circa 2002.

Chief Journalist Mark Piggott aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) circa 2002.

The one thing I wanted was a career and training, and the U.S. Navy offered me all of that. As a Navy Journalist, I learned writing, broadcasting, photography, graphic design and public relations. Over the years, I travelled halfway around the world and back, visited many foreign countries and experienced cultures far and wide. Like they advertised, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!”

Those experiences resonate through my “Forever Avalon” and “The Dark Tides” novels. Bryan Drake went from a Chief Petty Officer, a leader of men, to the champion and protector of an entire island. It’s the same feelings all veterans feel–duty, honor, courage and responsibility–that made Bryan give up his family and his home to become Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh. He put the people of Avalon ahead of his own personal needs.

Even after his family was brought to Avalon years later, he was torn between his responsibility to his family and his duty to Avalon. This is something the men and women of the armed forces go through each and every day.

Everytime I had to say good-bye to my wife and kids, I felt like I was abandoning them by leaving them on their own. It’s not easy when you have to leave them for six months to a year at a time, missing birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. That’s what made the homecomings so much more sweeter and rewarding.

It’s that same spirit of selfless devotion to duty that I tried to instill in the Gil-Gamesh. He is a warrior, tried and true, ready to fight for what he believes in; but deep-down, he’s a family man at heart, whose love for his wife and kids is the only thing that keeps him going. I think anyone who wore the uniform knows that feeling.

The Navy gave me a great education and great experiences, but it was always coming home to my family that meant the most to me. The Gil-Gamesh has that same drive and determination, coming from a long line of warriors who put duty to Avalon above all else. Remember, faith and family gives us the courage to face our fears and do what’s right.

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