Jake Forbes grew up listening to war stories of his great-uncle serving in WWII. He later got the opportunity to tell stories of his own service while he was in the Navy.
A Navy veteran for 13 years, Forbes took six years off before rejoining the reserve forces in June this year. Although he currently lives in Midlothian, Forbes said he grew up with his family on a farm midwest in Iowa.
Forbes said his biggest inspiration came from his great uncle Gerald Prator, who served in the Navy from 1943 to 1967.
“He did 24 years,” Forbes said of his great-uncle. “He would come to Iowa every summer with my great-aunt to see my grandmother - then he would stay for like three months. I just grew up on Navy stories.”
Forbes said he always dreamed of a life outside of the farm in Iowa. He said that’s part of the reason why his great uncles’ stories in the Navy enamored him so much: it’s because it took him someplace other than where he was.
“It was kind of a solitary life,” he said. “Not that you were condemned to it, but it was one of those things that usually if your dad was a farmer, you were going to be a farmer.”
When he graduated high school in 1999, Forbes said his parents wanted him to go to college. He chose otherwise.
“I had a scholarship to go to college,” he said. “When they got divorced, I was just a high school kid, and it just kind of made me mad. So like any other high school kid, I just thought ‘What would make my parents unhappy, but make me happy?’ That’s when I decided to join the Navy.”
Forbes said his parents weren’t happy about the decision at first. He said there was a negative perception of what service was like, and his family was very understandably concerned about that.
“The only thing you know of the military and war is what you see on TV,” he said. “That’s never a good perception of that.”
Eventually, Forbes’ parents came around and demonstrated pride in him making it into the Navy. Forbes said one of the things that appealed to him about the Navy was all of the experiences that came with it.
“I think it was just something about camaraderie and traveling and seeing the world and trying to do something bigger than yourself,” he explained. “I look back on that and laugh on it, but I hated putting them through any stress. But that’s what really led up to it. Had they not gotten a divorce, I probably would have gone to college.”
After he attended boot camp out in Great Lakes, IL, Forbes was stationed out in Maine. But while he was just getting started in his service, he heard news about his mom in Mar. 2001.
“She passed away from cancer,” he said. “I was pretty new to the Navy.”
Forbes said it was hard to digest while he was in active service and he missed his mom terribly. But he remembered how proud she was of him and used that to push forward in his Navy career.
Forbes said he made rank quickly as a Petty Officer First Class in the Navy. His service took him everywhere from Florida and Virginia stateside to Japan and the Philippines internationally.
“We hit pretty much every coastal European country from Portugal all the way to Dubai,” he said.
But in 2001, Forbes was stationed with a squadron down in Hawaii along with one of his close friends. It was there where he met his future wife, Emily.
“She was a traveling nurse,” he said. “She was also from the Midwest. We met out there and ended up getting married. We’re about to have our third boy probably in the next 10 days.”
Forbes left the Navy in 2012, but even after putting the Navy behind it was still influencing the direction of his life, eventually leading him to move to Midlothian in 2014.
“A lot of people in the Navy [...] happened to work in Texas,” he said. “They called me while I was in Virginia, said ‘Hey do you want a job?’ That’s how we got out here.”
Forbes said serving in the Navy is not a 9-5 job, and you have to know that going into it. But once you accept that, the benefits of service are limitless.
“Everything was great,” he said. “Every experience, every person I met. I think that’s the one thing I took away from the Navy – the experience of the people you meet.”
“It’s just a weird brotherhood and sisterhood of people that are the most unlikely of friends and coworkers, but for just that one great cause, everybody gets along,” he continued. “There is no color. There is no race. There is no segregation. There is no sexism. It’s just camaraderie. That’s what I love the most.”
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX