Robert Nave: A father, a veteran
BY BRITTNEE NAVE
A father’s love led one man to join the military.
In early 1988, Robert Nave was a father to his young son and was pondering how to give him the best life he could. After a friend brought up that he had been speaking with a recruitment officer to enlist in the military, Nave asked that his name be passed along.
“I did it for my son,” Nave said. “I joined because I had just become a father, and I wanted a stable income for him.”
Nave said he had mixed reactions from his family about enlistment, his mom in particular.
“She didn’t want me to leave. I was the youngest,” he said. “She just didn’t want to see her baby leave.”
Much to the dismay of his mother, Nave left for training for 18 weeks. He said he was taken to the airport by parents with a tearful goodbye. When he returned home for three weeks after his training, he would be gone again for a solid two years.
During those two years, Nave was stationed in Italy. He lived on base and communicated with his family over phone calls.
He said he spent holidays at a sergeant’s home where they would have dinner; this ultimately began to feel like another home.
During these two years, Nave received his German Jump Wings and experienced a memory like no other.
“Me and some of my friends went to see the Roman Colosseum and got locked out of our hotel room because of curfew,” he said. “So we slept right outside the Roman Colosseum at a park under a picnic table because it was raining. That’s one of those memories you just don’t forget.”
Nave said during his time in Italy, pictures from home and care packages made him feel close to home. His son’s grandparents also made sure to remind his son who his father was while he was away.
After two years in Italy, Nave returned home for 30 days before going to Fort Bragg, and eventually Desert Storm, which he found out the day after Thanksgiving.
Nave went into Desert Storm for four months.
“When we first got there we were in Saudi Arabia. We traveled to different parts of Saudi Arabia and then went to Iraq,” he said.
Nave described what he saw as flat land, with sand and desert, along with oil rigs.
During his time in Desert Storm, he said he was scared.
“Anybody that has never really been in that situation before, yes, because it’s a very intense moment when you’ve got the fire going around you, bombs going off,” he said.
In his initial enlistment of four years, he said he didn’t expect something to happen that would break into war, noting that no one really does.
“There’s always a chance because you don’t know,” he said. “Someone could join right now and another war could break out.”
While in the desert, Nave said that while they were fed, hygiene was on the basis of doing the best you can with no shower.
After Desert Storm, Nave was allowed to return home for two weeks to be with his son, who had to have open-heart surgery.
“I told them I couldn’t miss it, I wanted to go home and be there for him,” he explained. “They told me they would make sure I got home, and they did.”
After being with his son for the surgery, Nave said it was hard to leave him.
“Anytime it’s hard to leave a child like that,” he said. “They don’t fully understand, and I damn sure didn’t want him to think I was abandoning him or didn’t care.”
Nave spent the duration of his time at Fort Bragg, returning home once a month. He left the service after four years, in February of 1992, saying he didn’t want to just be a picture for his son.
“When I got out, I had to slow down,” he said. “When you’re in the service, it’s going as fast as you can. Even when I ate I had to slow down.
“People also said my accent was funny. It changed because I was around different cultures.”
As he looked back at his time in the service, Nave said he wouldn’t change it.
“If I had to do it again, I’d still do it,” he said. “When you join the service, you have more respect for the flag, the anthem, and the men and the women fighting for this country every day.
“You are just so proud of them and would do anything in the world for them, no matter what branch they’re in. That’s family.”
In 2009, a devastating fire left most of Nave’s military photos destroyed. Those remaining are of group photos his friends from the army were able to find for him.
Nave concluded by speaking on the rewards he believes come from serving his country.
“It builds character and it molds you into being a better person,” he said. “It’s a hard lifestyle, it’s a dangerous lifestyle, but the rewards are there and the opportunities to expand and do something in this world are there; I respect anyone who wants to join.”