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Brashear, whose father’s journey to becoming the Navy’s first Black American master diver was immortalized in the motion picture “Men of Honor,” was appointed as an honorary chief petty officer by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell. L. Smith during his retirement ceremony at the Frank B. Lotts conference center onboard Defense Supply Center in Richmond, Va.
Brashear retired after 40 years of combined service in the Navy Reserve, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve. He first joined the Navy Reserve in 1989 and transferred to the Virginia Army National Guard. After completing the Initial Rotary Wing Training, Brashear became a warrant officer pilot in June 1991. In May 2007, he decided to retire from the Army National Guard.
However, in May of 2009, Brashear began to feel a deep sense of emptiness.
“I felt there was a void,” he said. After going through some of his late father’s belongings, he remembered his father’s famous words: “It’s not a sin to get knocked down. It’s a sin to stay down.” He decided to return to service.
Upon resumption of his military career, Brashear decided to get more involved with the Navy, an organization with which he felt a unique and lasting bond.
“The Navy gave me so much growing up as a kid,” he said of his father’s legacy. “I wanted to give back, and through [my father] I was given the opportunity.”
Brashear began to connect with Sailors around the Navy, especially during chief initiation seasons. Leaning into his father’s legacy as an example of steadfast determination and the epitome of the phrase “Navy Chief, Navy Pride,” Brashear volunteered to motivate, educate, and inspire Sailors to dig deep and find the best version of themselves.
He volunteered as a guest speaker at CPO pinning ceremonies, sharing his father’s story, and revealing how profoundly it influenced his career in service. He also regularly took the time to travel great distances, dedicating his time and energy to sit down individually with those who asked for his advice, often staying as long as needed no matter the time – a commitment that did not go unnoticed.
“During the 2021 Battleship New Jersey annual Chief Petty Officer Heritage Academy, Phillip was among us,” said Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist David Fogel during a speech before Brashear’s official pinning. “As the night progressed, both chiefs and chief selects began to filter out, making their way to their racks for some sleep before the next day’s training. Eventually, there was only one chief left, signing a charge for a single chief select… And that chief was Phillip Brashear.”
As Brashear was called up to be pinned, Smith pinned his anchors and Reserve Force Master Chief Petty Officer Tracy Hunt placed a CPO combination cover upon Brashear’s head.
After the presentation, Brashear was piped ashore for a final time, a Navy retirement tradition. As the peal of the bells gave way to the echo of the Boatswain’s pipe, another Brashear took his place alongside his brothers and sisters in the Mess, leaving behind a forty-year legacy of honor.
“Let me tell you,” said Brashear of his induction to the ranks of the global CPO Mess. “It is so wonderful, now I can represent two great uniforms.”
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of All Hands Magazine, now celebrating its 100th year. For more outstanding coverage of the U.S. Navy, visit https://allhands.navy.mil/
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