MARIANNA, Fla.— It’s a breezy morning on the deck of a Naval ship carrying over 5,000 crewmen, when you hear rumbling from the port side. You turn to see a cloud of billowing smoke rising from a mountain to fill the humid air.
Before you know it, a volcano erupts before your very eyes.
To most people, this sounds like a fanciful tale that would only happen in one’s imagination.
To Daniel Therrien, this was reality.
Therrien, 36, served in the Navy for five years.
At 19 years old, in 2002, he enlisted in the Navy. Therrein says his first year was mostly filled with school and prepping for deployment.
After that, Therrien spent six-and-a-half months on the Persian Gulf on the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy. Therrien says he served on the decommissioning crew of the aircraft carrier.
Although he went in to serve as a cook, Therrien ended up working mostly on supply.
“I did more of cargo and maintenance-type stuff,” he says. “You go in for a job in the Navy, but there are always temporary duty assignments.”
Therrien says the experience of the massive ship was exotic for the small-town boy.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a great experience being from a small town like this and going to a ship that had over 5,000 people on it. It was something to behold.”
After decommissioning that ship, Therrien went to work on the U.S.S. Bainbridge.
According to Therrien, the U.S.S. Bainbridge was one of the ships on the rescue team for Captain Richard Phillips. The incident of Captain Phillips’ hijacking was turned into the 2013 motion picture, “Captain Phillips.”
“The Bainbridge is the one that went over and saved that crew with the Navy SEALs,” he said. “But it was a brand-new ship so it was quite a different experience on that one. We actually did have a deployment on that one and they did chase pirates for about 6 months.”
Therrien says his service gave him numerous opportunities.
“I got to see a lot of cool places,” he said. “Seeing as I was a cook, we actually performed banquet dinners for dignitaries overseas while we pulled into port and things like that.”
Although the military did allow Therrien to have new experiences, he says life in the military really wasn’t all the different from civilian life.
“It’s actually not a whole lot different from normal, day-to-day life,” he said. “You just work more hours and in more strenuous situations. But it was a good experience.”
Among those experiences, Therrien was on the last ship to fly an F-14 Tomcat. If the name of that jet sounds familiar, it may because the F-14 Tomcat is the jet flown by Tom Cruise in the movie “Top Gun.”
“We were the last carrier to have them land on the ship out at sea,” Therrien says.
Therrien says that one experience he holds dear was witnessing a volcanic eruption in the Red Sea.
Among other adventures, he also was able to visit the Parthenon in Greece and Dubai.
Although Therrien treasures each of these experiences, he still says the culture of the ship was one of the most amazing things.
“Mainly, it’s just pretty cool that you can take 5,000 strangers and put them in one spot a little bigger than this building,” he said. “You have to learn to adjust to making a family unit out of that. And actually on a carrier, believe it or not, you will spend four to five years on them and will not meet everybody on that ship. You won’t even see everyone on that ship.”
Even though transitioning into military life wasn’t that difficult, for Therrein, transitioning out of it seemed to be the trick.
“It was tough to just live at a slower pace,” he said. “I was on a ship, so there was always noise going constantly. So it was tough to sleep without radios going and things like that. But you eventually phase back into it. They actually do courses when you leave the military to kind of help you re-adjust back to living the civilian life.”
Today, you can find Therrien at Marianna Toyota, where he is currently employed.
Therrien is thankful for the opportunities the military has lent him. More than that, he says the military has helped him gain the values he has today.
“It makes you grow up and learn responsibility,” he said. “You get better work ethic in my opinion, but you know, things like that aren’t always taught nowadays, unfortunately. But the military is always there to help give structure to your life.”