The 2nd Annual Midwest Brewers Brawl played host to a special guest on Sunday afternoon, Petty Officer 2nd Class R. J. Pate of the United States Navy. This was his first weekend back in Indiana after serving our country overseas for five years and he decided to spend it with his family and the United Way.
Pate was an Information Systems Technician with the Navy. He spend the majority of his time in the Middle East on the carrier, USS George W. Bush. The carrier is supporting the situation in Iraq by providing air support if needed, surveillance, and provide the US presence in a different part of the world.
After graduating from Purdue, Pate found that the job market was not doing too well and he wanted to go back to school. Knowing that the military had a tuition assistance program and the G.I. Bill, Pate knew that he had a way to pay for his education. On top of that, he wanted to serve his country by doing something worthwhile.
"I wanted to do something honorable," Pate said. "The current job that I had didn't make me feel like I was making a difference and by joining the military I felt like I made a difference. I helped better our country and I gave my time and service to help make the America Dream live."
Being away from family and friends was tough, but Pate realized that the cause he was part of was bigger than himself and really, him being away was only temporary.
"It's a really different life. It's hard to be away," Pate said. "But you have to keep in mind what you are doing it for. When I first joined the military I wasn't married, but it became a little harder after I got married because I didn't want to be away from her."
A year into it, Pate married his lady love, Kristin. They met in college and he know he couldn't let her get away.
"One of the best decisions I've ever made," Pate said with a smile.
On the carrier there was a lot to keep the soldiers entertained and busy. Concerts, videogames, exercise facilities, a library, and more were available to keep everyone occupied. Though not quite the same as being at home on land, it was a well-meant substitute. When he came home Kristin was waiting for home at the airport. He drove with her in a moving vehicle to meet his family at a storage unit where he unpacked.
"It was really great to have friends and family there to help out," Pate said. "It made me really happy to be able to see everyone."
Pate's mom is United Way Executive Director Kris Pate. She arranged for him to be the guest of honor at the Brewers Brawl. You couldn't find a prouder parent in the Midwest.
Now that he's home, Pate plans to go back to school to pursue his Master's.Degree. He also plans on using the skills that he acquired during his time serving to stay in the IT field. He'd like to use his security clearance to possibly work for a DOD contractor or another government agency. But for now, Pate plans to relax a bit and enjoy the homecoming.
"It's good to be here and it's good to be back," Pate ended.