Carl Windom’s father was an original Montford Point Marine who fought in World War II and three of his siblings also served in the military.
While Windom wanted to join the service, he didn’t want to fight or shoot a firearm. He wanted something different.
“I wanted to be in the Navy for the travel and the adventure,” Windom says. “It’s what they say it is. It really is an adventure, and it does enrich your life.”
Windom joined the U.S. Navy in 1973 as an 18-year-old just out of high school—drawn to the white uniform his brother wore.
After completing basic training, he was assigned to the USS Independence, an aircraft carrier. He served on two other ships as well, traveling the seven seas for two-and-a-half years. His longest stay at sea was 178 consecutive days.
“During that time, I had life-awakening moments,” says Windom, an accredited financial counselor who works with the military and the owner of Windom Wisdom LLC, a consulting firm that provides credit unions with operational support. “When you’re a young kid and you’ve lived in one place all of your life, you surrender your life to the military.”
Windom had various jobs while on the USS Independence, the first as a boatswain’s mate. Saltwater turns the ship brown, so boatswain’s mates would spend 12-hour shifts scraping off the brown and repainting the ship gray.
He also obtained a license to drive the aircraft carrier. To earn the certification, Windom had to be on the helm of the ship for 24 hours. That included watch duty, a four-hour shift in the middle of the night when sailors stood on deck.
“When you’re on watch duty, you’re on the deck,” says Windom, who spent 27 years working for NCUA before retiring in 2012. “And you’re literally driving the ship in the middle of the night.”
Windom was also a dental tech, not only working in the dental practice but also assisting the medical unit with search and rescue missions from plane crashes at sea.
But it was his final job as an accountant in the Post Office that provided Windom the travel and adventure he was seeking. As the ship would near port, Windom and others in the Post Office would leave the ship to pick up the mail and bring it back, says Windom, who achieved the rank of Postal Clerk Second Class by the time he left the Navy in 1977.
After completing his time on the USS Independence, Windom became a postal clerk, running post offices on two other ships.
“The military gave me a sense of worth, a sense of discipline, a sense of teamwork, and an understanding of how to get things done,” Windom says.