SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- What does success mean to you? Is it fame, money, power? For some, success is a tangible thing; for others, it's a feeling of fulfilment through helping people. Where some find success at the end of a grueling path, others find it in the journey.
From the day he left his family and home in the Philippines in order to pursue a better life for them, to the day he was selected to become a commissioned officer in the United States Navy, and onward through his life, Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Eduardo Ople has walked that path with his head held high.
"We had a family business back in the Philippines, but then problems arose when the President of the Philippines was ousted from his Presidency," said Ople. "Additionally, during that time the government and the economy back home were indefinite. I was doubtful of what was to come; therefore, as a husband and a father, I wanted to protect and give my family a bright future. I sacrificed my life in the Philippines and went to a completely foreign nation in hopes to find a better and more suitable life for my family."
When he made it to the United States, things weren't always easy. Ople took work where he could find it, but quickly discovered working long hours in a restaurant late at night wasn't exactly the American dream he wanted to settle for.
"Lourdes Restaurant always had a very lively ambiance, especially during the night," said Ople. "It was always filled with customers and their laughter; however, working in the kitchen is another story. My night shifts were always chaotic."
Working in the kitchen wasn't a new experience for Ople, who owned his own restaurant in the Philippines.
"The restaurant was great, but it did not quite have a 5-star kitchen. It was very small, had a peculiar smell and it was scorching hot. We were like sardines in the back and the smell of oil seeped through our clothes."
Ople didn't just work in the kitchen. He did everything that needed to be done, from waiting tables to cleaning bathrooms.
"I felt like I lived in the restaurant at one point. I worked there from 1 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. six days a week, but working at that place has definitely been a life-changing experience for me."
While his evenings were eaten at the restaurant, he spent his mornings delivering newspapers in Coronado.
"There were times I questioned what I was doing to myself, but I had to do it in order to survive. So after my shift at the restaurant, I headed straight to newspaper service center to place each newspaper in the plastic and go right away to Coronado in order to beat traffic and deliver the newspapers before 6 a.m."
The odd schedule occasionally took a toll, and Ople had to find ways to adapt and overcome the long hours of mentally and physically draining work.
"On some occasions, I would need to take a nap at one of the parking lots at the ferry landing because I knew there was no way I would be able to drive back home. What I did was very exhausting, without a doubt, but I would always remember the reason why I did the things I did, and it was for my family."
Every sacrifice and each long hour of work brought Ople one step closer to his family.
"It took a while before I was able to bring my family to the U.S. I missed them immensely, but I wanted them to be with me when life in the U.S. would be somewhat easier for them. During that time they didn't know the situation I was in, and I did not want to tell them about it because I did not want them to worry. I had nothing at that time, not even medical insurance. I got into an accident in the restaurant I worked at and cut my hand. I had to get stitches, and it was quite pricey. It was worth around two paychecks. I was asked to go back in to get my stitches removed which was another $200 or so, so I took the stitches out myself using a nail cutter and rubbing alcohol."
Despite the rough times, Ople persevered. He used the adversity of his reality to learn and grow instead of letting it tear him down.
"One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in this journey is that bad situations may seem bad at that moment, but in hindsight, they were crucial for positive changes imposed on me. Somebody said, not all storms come to disrupt your life; many of them come to clear your path. Now, I realize that God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile."
After three years of fantasizing about what could be as he drove across the Coronado Bridge, glancing at the giant grey warships in the harbor, Ople decided to enlist in the Navy. He joined the Navy in 2005 and was selected for the fiscal year 2018 Limited Duty Officer commissioning program. Ople says that he believes he can use his new position as an officer to help more Sailors. His commissioning ceremony took place on July 20, 2018.
"Success, for me, isn't something that can be measured materialistically. Being able to provide for my family both in the U.S. and in the Philippines is my marker of success. The action of being able to help others is what I consider as my success. Another accomplishment I have is being given the opportunity to serve my nation. I would have never imagined that I would join the United States Navy, but through this career, I was able to show my dedication and diligence. Being in the Navy has given me a chance to give back to our country and help others."
During five western pacific deployments aboard two amphibious ships he earned three selections as Sailor of the quarter and two selections as Sailor of the year. While serving ashore at Navy Recruiting Depot San Diego he became the Medical Officer Recruiting team leading petty officer, earning Active Officer Recruiter of the Quarter and Region West Active Officer Recruiter of the Year as well as selection to Chief Petty Officer.
"Chief Ople puts his all into his Sailors," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brik Wiley, the aviation fuels Boatswain aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). "I can recall him caring so much that he was physically injured while helping his young airman. He leads by example, which is why you now see him walking with a limp."
Ople wore two hats aboard Boxer as the aviation fuels division (V-4) leading chief petty officer as well and the safety department leading chief petty officer. For several months he also served as the acting safety department head, a position typically staffed by a commissioned O-3 or higher ranking officer.
"Without a doubt, V-4 would not be the division it is today without him," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) Donnell Davis, the V-4 division leading chief petty officer aboard Boxer. "Chief Ople is the kind of person who enters your life and you never forget; his presence and leadership is that powerful."
American newscaster David Brinkley, a role model of Ople's, once said, "A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him."
Ople is the kind of man who would take those bricks and use them to build a house for the person who threw them. He is a man who finds success in helping others, who refuses to walk the path to success alone, and instead brings along those that he leads.
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