Waverly, Tenn.-- When thinking of people interested in enlisting in the U.S. Navy one might not initially think of a small town in the middle of Tennessee’s rural landscape 56 miles outside of Nashville. For Michael Meade, this was exactly the place he started his journey.
Meade walks in with a confident stride wearing a weathered motorcycle jacket, a U.S. Navy Delayed Entry Program T-Shirt and a genuine smile. It has been a few months since he signed up for the Navy’s Nuclear Field Program, one of the Navy’s most challenging professions to enter into, but on this day, he got the first glimpse of the rewards to come. Meade was presented with a sign-on bonus check for $40,000. He smiled, laughed a little and asked, “Forty?”

Machinist Mate (Nuclear, Submarine) First Class Grant McKee, who was presenting the checked laughed back, “You didn’t know you were getting an extra three [thousand] for graduating high school?” Still in a little bit of disbelief and filled with excitement Meade laughed and accepted the check.

Meade is a high school senior at Waverly Central High School in Waverly, Tenn. He expects to graduate in May of 2019 and intends to leave for Recruit Training Command as soon as is possible after his graduation.

“I can’t wait to ship out to basic training, start early, and I look forward to meeting new people and challenging myself,” Meade said.

The Navy’s Nuclear Field consists of some of the most highly trained professionals who have met the high standards the program needs. This highly technical field Meade has agreed to enter into will begin his career in the Navy and beyond. 

Meade’s interest in the Navy had peaked after seeing a recruiter at a table set-up. He was also influenced by his friend and current roommate who hopes to enlist as well.

“I wanted to challenge myself, and I thought it would be fun to try something new,” said Meade. Among the many things Meade is looking forward to in his Navy career, he is really excited to meet new people.

Meade has a joyful demeanor that matches his interest in meeting new people and making new friends. “I don’t really know anyone in my senior year that I am not friends with,” he said. Though he has felt a warm welcome in this small town, there is a sense of wanting to get out and see what else the world has to offer for Meade.

“It has been a little hard at times since I am the only foreigner [here]. You don’t really feel like they get you, or it’s like, simply you’re different” said Meade while discussing his hopes to encounter a multi-cultural workforce.

Meade, a Thai-born Thai-American moved to Tennessee in 2013. Though he had traveled to the U.S. from Thailand a couple times in 2004 and 2006 visiting his American father in New York, Meade’s experience with travel sparked an interest in learning more about other cultures.

“I’m actually interested in seeing the world. I kind of want to be stationed in Japan. I am kind of fascinated [with] their culture,” said Meade. What began with an interest in the popular Japanese animation, turned into a love of Japanese history and overall culture. 

“Within the two years of my nuke school, I plan to learn Japanese,” said the already multi-lingual Meade. Meade has already had experience in speaking English, Thai and Mandarin. “I also want to squeeze in a little bit of violin playing there because I am fascinated with that.”

Among the interests in language, culture and music, Meade has another passion. “I love motorcycles,” he said, “especially Kawasaki, which is actually a Japanese brand.”

Meade explains his interest in the Japanese brand started with their bold choice to paint their bikes in green, “Which was actually considered to be an unlucky color,” explained Meade. Meade feels the brand also represents progress in their advancement in the make of the bike to the changing a superstitious symbol in racing. “I actually really like the green and black, it’s beautiful.”

“Once I got the bike that I have now, I just remember how fun it was to get on the road, with two wheels and with the wind blowing in your face,” said Meade about his time riding his motorcycle, ”also the roads, the scenery here is beautiful.”

Meade describes himself as easy-going and relaxed. While he has his passions and a future to look forward to in the Navy, he recognizes this path is not without challenges. 

“I think one of my hardest challenges would be…I wouldn’t say disciplines; I would say habits,” Mead explains he feels he will have a difficult time creating new habits that he will benefit from and breaking old habits he could use to lose. 

“I’m nervous,” said Meade. He compared this new chapter in his life to when he was a second grader in Thailand participating in English speech competitions. “I’ve been up in front of people, and even on TV, and I’m still nervous.”

Meade expressed his excitement, passions and trepidations, but ultimately, he feels he is on the right path. With a promise of $40,000, extensive training and education, and a potential life-long career, Meade ventures into his journey to be forged by the sea.

“I think that there is opportunity everywhere you go,” said Meade, “I believe that the Navy is the choice for me.”


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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)