If you have been keeping up with “The Wild Ride” then you know that life’s journey has taken me to New Orleans. Didn’t know that? Well then you can read about it in my previous post. For anyone curious about the road beyond FY20, I’m not currently planning on going back to Florida.
The Marine Corps has been a blessing and a curse as it has created positive and negative experiences. There is a lot of sacrifice involved as it relates to time away from home, from family, and from a civilian career. Additional requirements include the use of free time the “other 28 days” (phrase used in the reserves to describe the time between drill periods), missing holidays, missing birthdays, missing births, juggling two careers, and even time in (or out of) school. This post is not intended as a “whoa is me for service” or “see how we sacrifice” type of post. Sacrifice is real, but to serve is our choice and we all have our own reason for doing so. Here are my reasons for serving: God.Honor.Country.
Being a part of Walt Disney World while serving in the military has not always been an issue, but for some reason the last couple years have created unnecessary hardships (read about my return from mobilization here). My choice has always been to push through those hard times and apply my experiences and passions to greater things (facilitating at Disney University, becoming a lifeguard trainer, being relief Duty Manager, etc.). As a generally optimistic guy, I do not always share negativity, however, the time I spent at Disney’s Pop Century Resort (“Pop Century”) was not the best time I’ve ever had serving Cast and Guests at Walt Disney World. Thankfully I have had enough experience at other properties to know that the Pop Century experience does not speak to the rest of Walt Disney World. Knowing that military experience is not viewed as an asset by some individuals leading within The Walt Disney Company is discouraging. These same individuals create a tough environment to be in when juggling reserve and civilian responsibilities. Thankful to have been activated and out of that environment, but it is a shame that it existed to begin with.
So what’s the play after I am done working at the Reserve HQ in New Orleans? That is still to be determined, but right now I am not counting on going back to Florida unless I can work somewhere else at Walt Disney World. There are a couple of options I am considering right now and, Lord willing, the next course of action will have been determined at the end of my orders.
There is no reason to be surprised by it, but God continues to amaze me with His sovereignty. The timing of my activation in New Orleans was perfect as the experience at Pop Century was only getting worse. God knew when I needed to move. The Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move included relocation costs. God knew I couldn’t move everything myself (but honestly I did not want to) and provided that benefit. Continued growth in my job with the Marines is always something I am interested in. God provided this opportunity to learn and grow with a master in our field. Even with difficult experiences, I continue to be assured that all things are working together for good.
One of the other good things is that Disney Cruise Line is sailing out of New Orleans for the first time ever (it’s the little things, am I right?). Next month I get to cruise! Another good thing is that I am getting paid to be in a place I never imagined I’d visit (let alone live in). While we are talking about good things, there’s a pop-up chicken place every Monday that I highly recommend you find when you come to New Orleans: Southerns Chicken.
The holidays came and went fairly quickly, but just like that Mardi Gras season started and we are in the middle of it right now. Ringing in the new year on top of the apartment was an experience. At the stroke of midnight there was a 360 degree display of local fireworks all across the city. Incredible! January was mostly uneventful aside from working all the time and the big Tiger fight. It was really cool seeing and talking to South Carolinians again when they came to town. I even saw my old Gunny from the Greenville Unit! February rolled around and I was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSgt) in the Marines. What an honor and a proud/bizarre moment. My goal all along has been to meet and surpass the rank my dad held. Today I am the 2nd SSgt Johnston in our family and hopefully the first Gunnery Sergeant and/or Chief Warrant Officer one day.
As I wrap up I want to thank you. Thank you for making it this far in the post (that you actually read). Thank you for your support. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for following this wild ride. Please pray with me as I look to what the future brings. Until next time: Be strong. Love God. Love others.