MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Antwone Fisher's journey from homelessness to the Navy has been made famous by his 2002 movie that bears his name.
While his story is extraordinary, his path from civilian to bootcamp to Sailor was not much different than that of the tens of thousands of Sailors who are recruited into the Navy every year.
If you ask a new recruit why they joined the Navy, the answers will likely revolve around a host of opportunities the Navy has to offer. For a young Fisher, one particular opportunity caught his attention.
"I was only aware of the opportunity to travel to places that were far and away from the place where I grew up, literally and figuratively," said Fisher. "It was what I wanted most at the time."
Fisher, who had lived in and out of foster homes, had very little exposure to life in the military. One particular event, however, made an impression on him.
"The brother of a childhood friend who was returning home from the Vietnam War was exiting their father's car pulling his sea bag from the rear seat behind him," Fisher described. "I remember thinking how worldly and grown up he had become, how majestic and powerful he appeared wearing his 'Cracker Jack' dress blue uniform and 'dixie cup' [cover]."
Fisher's love of the dress blue uniform started when he was very young. While Fisher may not have had exposure to the actual Navy before enlisting, one iconic pop image had already caught his eye.
"When I was a boy, my favorite sweet treat was the caramel covered popcorn treat that came in a little box marked Cracker Jacks," Fisher explained. "The uniform worn by the kid on the box captured my attention because at the time it was so unusual."
When Fisher made the decision to join, he reached out to a local recruiter and began the process of joining the Navy. But first, his recruiter had a few simple questions
"He asked me if I was a U.S. citizen, had I graduated from high school, was I willing to work hard and follow orders, and was I ready to make something of myself? I replied emphatically, yes, to all these questions," said Fisher. "He was the first in a long line of enlisted men and officers who helped me change my life and circumstance for the better."
But while Fisher had been living on the streets without a home, he was still apprehensive about his transition into the Navy. Years of abuse and neglect by his foster families had left Fisher unsure about his own worth.
"My biggest fear about joining the Navy was if I would find a friend," he admitted. "At 18 and under the dire situation of homelessness, I didn't think that anyone would want to be my friend."
Fisher was worried about a myriad of social interactions and expectations given his unique circumstances.
"I didn't feel that I had anything to offer as a person. I had no self-esteem at the time," he said.
But like many others who join the Navy, Fisher soon found himself flourishing in the structure and learning skills he needed. And soon the Navy and his shipmates became more to him that he could have imagined before joining the Navy.
"Of course I did find friends and I learn to socialize," he said. "I learned that I had as much to offer by way of friendship than any other Sailor. Those friendships became familial relationships to me and the Navy became my home."
Fisher also worried that he wouldn't have the physical stamina or academic background to be successful in his Navy career. By testing his perceived limits in bootcamp and beyond, Fisher learned how successful he could be.
"I never failed an academic test nor a physical endurance task or exercise," he explained. "It was in bootcamp that I learned that I was more intellectually and athletically capable then I had ever imagined myself to be."
Fisher credits much of his success in life to the lessons and experience he gained in the Navy.
"Through, camaraderie, discipline, mentorship, responsibility and travel, I flourished into the man I am today," Fisher said. "Long after you leave the Navy, the lessons, training and the leadership skills will serve you wherever you go."
Fisher acknowledges that in hindsight he sees that much of the opportunity that the Navy offered him didn't involve traveling to far off places. Instead, the greatest opportunities he encountered were times when he was able to grow as an individual.
"The Navy is a great way to start life," he said. "There is a world of opportunity. More than that, the opportunity for personal growth that the Navy offers is unmatched."
While his time in the Navy has come and gone, Fisher has sound advice for the Sailors entering the Navy today. His advice is as applicable today as it was when he joined the Navy in the late 70s.
"I would tell the newest Sailors to always do their best, and remember that the Navy is made up of people," he said. "If you ever need someone to talk to, there is always someone there who will listen."
"Be honest and true," he continued. "Work hard and be good. Be careful and have fun. Do the right thing and don't make foolish choices."
These sentiments are as relevant today as they were during Fisher's time in the Navy. They even echo the mantra of current Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Micheal D. Stevens, which includes "work hard, stay out of trouble, be a good and decent person".
Fisher illustrates the most valuable asset of the Navy. It is not the ships, or aircraft, or weapons that make the U.S. Navy the world's most powerful. Instead it is its people.
Fisher's hopes and fears can be seen across the nation today as the newest Future Sailors raise their right hand. The cloth of the nation acts not only as an equalizer, but provides a unified experience no matter the rate or designator, no matter if it lasts one tour or a full career.
For more information about Navy Recruiting Command, visit www.cnrc.navy.mil. For more information about opportunities in the Navy, visit www.navy.com.
For more news from Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrc/.