HOMETOWN HEROES: Firsthand look at the life of a U.S. Navy Sailor | ABC News 4 Exclusive

Demontre Little - Stephon Deas (WCIV)

More than 300,000 men and women serve our country every day in the United States Navy. Norfolk, Virginia is home to the nation’s largest naval base. ABC News 4 got the unique opportunity to see how seamen and shipmates work every day.

Part 1: Sailor for a Day

It was an experience of a lifetime! The United States Navy allowed us to see firsthand how they work.

The first stop we made was to see power point presentations. Like any other presentation, they weren’t the most interesting, but a formality and plethora of information about the commitment we were making.

30 minutes later, we were off to get uniforms, because of course, we had to look the part. It’s not commonly known, but I’m about 4ft 10in, a tad smaller than most sailors. Finding coveralls to fit my frame became my first mission as a sailor.

Finally, after three tries, we found one to fit mem. I noticed that there was an older woman sitting in the corner of the fitting room, who wasn’t saying much, but I knew she was important. I learned she was Ms. Inell Lewis.

Her responsibility is of the utmost importance; she makes sure every sailor is dressed to a tee. “I can look at them and tell them if it’s right or wrong.” she told me.

After a few tweaks, my name was added to the coveralls and I was off to pack my bag. Seaman Lawrence was there to make sure I had everything, down to the undergarments that I needed. “This is a list of everything that’s in this cart. We do sea bag inspections and you have to have that same number in your sea bag every time.” Lawrence said.

The bag filled was about my size. It was at that moment, I was officially Petty Officer First Class Rivers, you know, for the day. We toured the Naval base, saw a submarine, a close look at the USS Baton.

Then it was time for our helicopter ride. It’s wear I’d meet Charleston’s own, Stephon Deas. He helped my photographer Kaitlyn and I gear up for what became the first helicopter ride for all three of us…

Thousands of feet in the air, we saw the naval base in full and the city of Norfolk. An experience we won’t soon forget.

Back on the ground, our adventures for day one came to an end. We slept tight that night, because day two---we headed out to sea.

Part 2: Demontre Little

The dawn of a new day aboard the USS Harry S. Truman. A day of new responsibilities for over 5,000 seamen and women. Including Lowcountry native, Seaman Demontre Little.

The USS Harry S. Truman is four and a half acres of steel; the flight deck is the length of the Empire State Building. The ship is the size of a small city. The ship is named after our 33rd President.

Behind the small wheel that steers the massive ship is Demontre Little.

“I’ve been on this ship for 19 months—so almost two years.” Little said. 40% of the sailors on board are under the age of 25. Little is only 22. He’s experienced more in the last two years than he had prior to enlisting. “I never really got to travel a lot as a kid.”

At the age of 20, he decided to leave the Wayland community he called home his entire life. His Uncle, the seaman he always looked up too. “My uncle, he’s in the navy, so he kind of told me about joining and that they’d help out with college.”

He has dreams beyond life at sea, “I want to go back to school and get a degree in communications.” But right now, he’s focusing on learning and growing with the navy and discovering new facets of his personality. “I pay attention more because we do a lot of dangerous things. So we got to pay attention because we have other people’s lives in our hands.”

All while seeing parts of the world he never even dreamed of visiting; Little never traveled much before enlisting. Now he’s seen several countries. “I’ve been to Greece, Bahrain, Dubai, I’ve been to Spain,” he said.

Little didn’t have a lifelong dream of being a sailor. He never imagined a military career; but as he was exposed to life outside of North Charleston, he quickly learned, “I’m a part of something bigger than myself.”

He wears many hats on board---but for the young sailor, steering the 1000ft ship is at the top of his priorities. “They trust me to drive the ship. I couldn’t believe it either, I didn’t think that we did that until I had to experience it.”

Jets land on the Truman daily, often times while Seamen Little is behind the wheel, “We have to make sure we keep the ship steady so the jets can land safely.”

He switches gears and responsibilities some days, “We do something called underway replenishment. Once a week when we’re out to sea. That’s refueling the ship, taking on supplies,” Little added.

He was soft spoken while he shared stories about his experiences, and loved talking about steering the ship. But he seemed to take the most pride in being a part of the search and rescue team. In the event there’s a man overboard situation, his team would respond. “We all man these lines to help lower the boat to save the swimmer because we only have about 10 to 12 minutes to save them because by then we could lose sight of them or they could go into shock or drown.”

His tour is winding down; the sailor will touch land in Norfolk soon. He has just one message for anyone uncertain about making a life change, “For people that really want to explore the world, this is a great opportunity. This is an opportunity to explore new cultures and people from everywhere, from all walks of life and experience where they come from and where they plan on going when they get out.”

The Truman will be deployed sometime in the next few months. Little could very well be steering the ship when it goes. He said he plans to re-enlist once his current contract is up.

Part 3: Stephon Deas

At the of age 17, Stephon Deas knew he and his friends wanted to sail away. “We all joined the navy at the same time.” He said.

As a child, he excelled with mathematics, but had trouble with reading and writing. College didn’t sound like a bad idea, but he had his successes with ROTC at Baptist Hill High School. He decided to try his luck with the Navy first. “We went in for different reasons, but we stayed in the military to keep ourselves on the right path, to give ourselves a good start.”

In just a few short years, Deas has accomplished more than he could imagine. His fears with writing have become a thing of the past. “My job is to update all the publications for all the Commanders that work on the aircraft.”

It’s a job that requires focus, precision, and tons of reading, but it was no small feat becoming a sailor. His parents, Karen and Michael, they beam with pride knowing that he never let a battle sink his drive and determination. “He had to overcome all those obstacles and he really did work hard at it.” Karen Deas added.

The Deas family lives in the small town of Adams Run. A suburb of Charleston they like to call it. Michael Deas said they thought he was teasing when he said he was going into the navy. “So you’re serious? I said I’m behind you 100%, whatever you want to do.”

During his time at Basic Training in Chicago, Illinois, he wrote letter to his family. It became his only form of communication for a while. His mother has kept the majority of them. “Every week, I would constantly go to the mailbox, if I didn’t get a letter, something was wrong,” his mother added.

Deas has an older brother and a younger sister. Even from a far he’s a constant motivation to the little sister he left at home. Maggie said, “They (her brothers) show me that anything you set your mind to is possible.”

He told his family in his letters, though times things got a little rough, his faith remained strong. “I read my bible every night and thank God for making it through another day. The devil has tried to tear me down, but I’m not going to let that happen.” His mother read from one letter.

Deas would go forth and travel the world. “I’ve been overseas on the USS Nemitz, Italy and Hawaii. I’ve been to Thailand also.”

His career thus far has been a whirlwind of firsts. His first time on an airplane was his flight to boot camp. His first helicopter ride was with me!! It’s these experiences that are molding and also exciting to the young sailor. “I’ve seen more countries in the past four years, that some people can’t say they’ve seen in their entire lives.”

Deas serves America with pride, “It’s just an opportunity, being able to serve my country, not a lot of people can say they wanted to do it.”

He finds the value in being able take part in maintaining our freedoms, “My job will save pilots and then pilots can save people, that’s why I do what I gotta do.”

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off