The Story Of One Woman's Journey From Tragedy To Boot Camp
Alexis Deese is crying. After staring off into a window filled with bare trees and the Great Smoky Mountains, she glances at the Navy ball cap on her kitchen table.
"I always feel kind of guilty. I get to sit here and talk about how I made it out but there are little kids that will never get their dad to come back home," she said.
On July 16, 2015, Deese had an appointment with Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Green at Navy Recruiting Station Chattanooga. She was excited to join the Navy. This meeting would be her final check-in before she went to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to choose her job and swear in.
As she prepared to leave though, she realized that there was a problem. The family car was missing. She found out that her mother had taken it. So the 10 a.m. appointment came and went.
Just 45 minutes later, a car did appear, but at a different location. A man in a silver convertible with the top down drove up to the Armed Forces Recruiting Center off Lee Highway in Chattanooga. Then he did something no one expected. The driver began firing shots at the building. Bullets ripped through the front windows of the recruiting stations and everyone dove for cover. The seat where Deese was supposed to sit and review her paperwork was inches from the glass.
As news came in that day, reports were scattered. Different locations and varied details were thrown about as the media tried to get a handle on the attack. It was a terrifying shock to the community and particularly to Deese when she finally heard the report that one of the targets was a recruiting station.
Miraculously, none of the recruiters from the various branches lost their life. But a few minutes across town at the Navy Operational Support Center, four Marines and one Sailor were not as fortunate.
The Chattanooga shooting quickly became a nationwide concern. People mourned in states hundreds of miles away. Some civilians organized armed patrols outside recruiting stations and others just tried to figure out exactly what had happened.
But what about the community in Chattanooga? As Deese tells it, the aftermath was striking.