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Around The Fleet

Together Again

A Sailor and Marine reunite

Small towns exist all over the country, and each is as different as the states they occupy. For many small towns, leaving to serve your country after high school is a high point of pride.

For two friends from Brookings, South Dakota, joining the military was a way to get out of the small-town life and see what the rest of the world had to offer.

Cpl. Nicholas Lacey enlisted in the Marine Corps when he graduated. A couple of years later his friend, Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Thompson, opted for the Navy.

Of all the places for these two to end up in the world, the Brookings High School alumni found themselves reunited aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5).

The two friends kept in touch through Facebook after they enlisted, and after seeing his status update about an upcoming deployment, Thompson realized he and his friend would be on the same ship. After messaging back and forth, they were looking forward to being together again underway.
Three photo collage of Cpl. Lacey and Petty Officer Thompson and a sign of Brookings, South Dakota.

"I didn't think I would see anybody from South Dakota after I joined, never mind my someone from my hometown or school," said Thompson. "I was just blown away at the idea of seeing him again."

After a day underway, Lacey discovered Thompson worked in the shop just around the corner from him, so he went to surprise him. After a brief, hug the two friends took a few minutes to catch up and reminisce.

"There wasn't a lot to do back home," said Lacey. "It's kind of like the ship in that way. You can't really do much or go anywhere, but the people here with you kind of help you get through the time."

Small-town kids learn to find things to do even when there's nothing around -- bonfires, road trips, and anything else where you're just sitting with friends and enjoying their company. Fortunately on a ship, that kind of enjoyment is easy to do. Having someone you already know well around gives you a companion from the start.

When you're from a town like mine, leaving it can be kind of overwhelming." - Thompson

"Everything is new and different, but it's cool that Nick and I are both here to experience it together," explained Thompson. "We're in the same boat, metaphorically and physically."

People from all over the world form the ranks of a deployed U.S. Navy ship -- a floating city with it's own blend of culture and atmosphere, completely apart from what service members know on shore. Days off are few and far between, with erratic working hours for people in different workspaces. With three years in the U.S. Marine Corps under his belt, Lacey has already adapted to the fast pace, new surroundings, and change in lifestyle. Now having that tie back to home makes the struggle of a deployment seem much less daunting.

"My new friends in the Marine Corps are great, but it is good to have Evan here," said Lacey. "It's like having an anchor to back home. Even if we don't get to hang out much because of work, it's good to have someone who knows exactly how I grew up and what I'm going through on here."