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A life of adventure

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A life of adventure

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It was a cold, winter day. Sunshine enveloped his face. The deck of a ship dipped and rose with the waves beneath him. Christopher Rochette thought about how adults tell you the stories of their lives and how he thought he’d have nothing interesting to tell. But there he was at the front of a large ship as it sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, revealing the vast ocean he’d never planned on traveling.

Rochette was 19-years-old when he left everyone he had ever known or cared for in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rochette is now a veteran of the Coast Guard with the rank of a Sergeant , and is the vice president of Skyline College’s Veteran Resource Center.

 

A week before graduating from high school, he decided to join the Coast Guard under the impression he would stay in Massachusetts, due to a recruiter who believed this would be so. He was a volunteer firefighter then, and was told it would be to his advantage enlist before a becoming full time firefighter.

 

“I never wanted to be in the military per say, and [I] wanted to be a firefighter and civilian,” Rochette says. “I never thought about wearing a uniform and the rules. So for me the idea of saluting or wearing a nice uniform all the time, I never really liked that. I liked the work, the adventure, and the mission.”

 

Then he thought he was just unlucky, but now sees the experience as one of the best things that has ever happened to him. He was sent to school in Virginia to become a firefighter and welder. Then, onboard a ship called The Sherman, he sailed with his crew to South America, Central America, Asia, Alaska, and all across the Pacific. He now considers the ship his second home.

 

His first patrol was in Alaska, 2004. An 800 foot long ship had split in half with the crew still on it, and the helicopter that had come to it’s rescue was caught in a large wave that pulled it into the ocean. The incident was a shock, as the crew had been expecting a slow day exploring, and Rochette had yet to experience what he described as something you would typically only hear about in the news.

Despite the less desirable aspects, Rochette appreciated the sense of adventure and travel that came with serving. It was after his patrol in Alaska that he took up photography as he had regretted not being able to capture the beauty of the snow capped volcanic mountains of the Aleutian Islands.

“There’s things that you’re gonna see that you won’t ever see otherwise, and you might not realize what you saw until after you walked away,” Rochette says, when speaking of what can be shocking when serving in the military.

He recalled being called back to the ship, and then hearing an echoey radio voice that sounded as if it were a narrator that were making the announcement. Upon arriving to the given destination for a clean up task after a search and rescue of a helicopter, he saw dark grey, blue waves that looked as tall as a three story home. There he also saw a large red and white lighthouse with its bright beam shining through, and remains that hardly resembled the helicopter they once were. He wondered how anyone could be in that water and survive.

Another impactful situation was a grenade thrown onto a ship, and Rochette was one of the men sent to tame the fire. The fire became so large it was incredibly difficult to get on the ship. It was not until afterward when everything was calm, that the men realized if anyone had fallen into the water their gear was heavy enough there would have been no chance of any of them being saved.

 

“I didn’t really think about it being dangerous,” Rochette says. “You just think, you have to put this fire out, we have a mission to do.”

Since returning from his service, he has found himself to be more patient and values time on a deeper level. Integration for him was quite easy though for many veterans it’s not. He found work at a shipyard where he was surrounded by many other veterans, a factor that helped in his transition.

 

His mother, Mary Rochette, agrees he had a fairly easy transition but though it was still him, she did notice slight differences. For one, he had matured a lot. He had also had his eyes opened to how other people live their lives and now aims to help and fight for others.

 

She also mentions that it gave him the confidence to be a leader, and he did things he probably wouldn’t have otherwise such as meeting his wife, teaching photography at a museum, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, and traveling.

 

“He would never have sworn in front of his mother,” Mary Rochette said with a laugh, when speaking of prior to her son’s service. “Once he got out, he did swear every now and then. He had a bolder sound in his voice. That soft spoken child was gone.”

She spoke of how his compassion came through from what he had witnessed, and at times he’d seem sad from certain memories, though he was never depressed. There were also things he would talk about with his father, but not his mother.

 

 

“In a mother’s words, he’s become a very fine young man who any mother would be proud to have as a son,” Mary Rochette says. “I think the military gave him a great experience, that turned him into the man he is.”

 

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A life of adventure