By Samantha Tassone
If you heard his voice alone without his body present, you might think he was a cartoon character reading off his lines. If you walked into his home by the beach without him there to explain the unique items that fill his walls, you might think he’s an axe murderer. If you saw him walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t think anything of him at all. Kurt Deville is an animated, electric, free spirit that is not afraid of conquering the world.
“He’s basically an awesome modern pirate with better hygiene skills,” says his niece, Kat Deville.
The bald, adventurous, middle-aged bachelor is always more than willing to talk about himself and share his wisdom with whomever will listen.
“I always wanted to see the world,” said Kurt Deville. “I drove past the recruiting office all the time when I was living in New York and thought maybe, just maybe I’ll join, but I needed a push. One Christmas Eve, I drove past the recruiter and saw the lights on, so I went in just to get some info and he sold me on the adventure and I signed the papers. I went to boot camp the following February. I started the Navy at the very bottom and now my rank is Senior Chief Petty Officer.”
His thirst for life began with the Navy at a young age and he is still committed to his service to this day.
“I’m still on active duty,” said the Senior Chief. “I have been in the Navy for 23 years as of February 7. I started off responsible for shaving my face, wearing my uniform right and being on time. Over the years my responsibility increased as I rose in rank. Now I’m responsible for the training, manpower and equipment for more than 375 sailors dispersed across 10 aircraft carriers and 16 aircraft squadrons, and I oversee a $1.4 million annual budget to ensure those sailors have the right equipment to accomplish their mission.”
This extremely impressive position does not phase him at all. Deville went to school for photography, graphic design and public relations. He makes it clear that he loves his job and would not trade it for anything.
When he isn’t talking about the Navy and his duties throughout the years, he is fixated on his unique travel experiences. More or less he will convince anyone who listens to wait to settle down and travel as much as you can. Live life to the fullest, and actually do it. He then proceeds to tell a wild story when he was in Las Vegas about losing a convertible Mustang that he found in someone’s backyard a day later.
“I would have made a movie about it, but then The Hangover came out,” says the Navy Chief.
Deville then mentions a hot girl, a happy bartender, an angry biker, an escaped horse and a giant chicken statue with arrows in it. Some rednecks were involved, a cave in the desert, the Blue Man Group, 104 miles an hour, several lies that kept him out of big trouble and that he saved his friend Larry from getting killed by his girlfriend. To those who know him, these stories are not out of character for him to tell.
Deville continues on a more serious note, “It’s okay to explore with childlike wonder, but don’t be naive. Understand the customs and culture enough to not offend or insult people before going there. The United States of America is still the greatest place to live and we as citizens are the most fortunate and free people on earth regardless of our bickering and our flaws.”
Deville has a great appreciation for culture, diversity and traveling. It is apparent that he has a deep respect for foreign cultures as well. One of the many perks of being in the Navy is that you get to see things not everyone gets to see. Deville has been sent to multiple countries while on active duty and has taken it upon himself to visit even more in his free time.
“I haven’t kept track but I have stood on six out of the seven continents (not Antarctica yet). I’ve probably been to around 30 countries,” he said.
A world traveler would be an understatement to describe this Navy sailor. Traveling to copious amounts of cities and countries a person would wonder if he has a favorite travel destination.
“I’ve seen so many amazing places that are so different, but Hawaii is the first place I always think of. It’s so naturally beautiful there that it makes me believe there is a God,” Deville explains. “There is a laidback island lifestyle that takes a while to get used to but once you embrace it it never really leaves you. I’m always happy when I’m there. I’m always planning my next trip there. I actually will be hiking the NaPali Coast from May 1-5 this year with some friends.”
His face lights up any time he talks about his future ambitions or his past experiences. Throughout his career he has been transferred to work at Navy bases around the country, mostly in Florida, California and Hawaii. In total, Deville has lived in 13 different states/countries. He is always planning his next adventure and looking for the positive in life. His near lifelong experience with the Navy gave him the chance to see the world and the courage to always continue doing what makes his inner self happy.
“I remember standing on the bow of USS LaSalle in the middle of a freezing cold night, on the Black Sea and looking at my breath,” he says with a look of nostalgia on his face. “I noticed the glow of bioluminescent creatures lighting up as the ship pushed through the water and it made me think that not many people get to see this. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful.”
Not many people can tell you they have seen something as magical and mysterious as that. He is lucky to have a trove of memories and experiences he can share with people willing to listen. Deville speaks with such a fearless freedom of expression that is refreshing to see in a person.
Deville goes on to say, “Being part of anything for a long time does change the way you look at things, but unlike working at a job in my hometown that was mostly an Irish/Italian neighborhood, I spent my adult life working around the world in a melting pot of people representing every race, religion, cultural and background. I think that taught me to understand people better and be more open minded.”
Enlisting in the Navy is more than just signing a piece of paper and going to boot camp. When Americans think of the Navy they think of brave, young American citizens defending our country in ways the general population may never fully understand. They go through obstacles and build endurance in ways the average American might never face in a lifetime. Deployment really changes a person’s perspective for life.
“I climbed through the window of a suspected insurgent’s house in eastern Baghdad and dragged the guy out of his bed while he slept,” Deville says.“We flex-cuffed him, took him and his family outside and searched his home. We found a stash of weapons and some land mines so we called EOD; they discovered an anti-tank mine rigged to the guy’s bed. I was with some seasoned U.S. Army and Navy professionals, but looking back on that night, it was pretty crazy.”
Deployment is a drastic change from our lives at home in the states. We live in a country where freedom of speech, right to bear arms and a structured legal system are in order. Other countries are not so similar to the states in that way. Getting assimilated to the Middle Eastern culture and then moving back home can be challenging according to Deville.
“It took a long time to get back to feeling like a normal person inside, but on the outside I looked fully assimilated,” he said. “I clearly remember being overwhelmed by choices. Too many things on the shelves at the store. Too many people at the malls and on the streets of America. It wasn’t easy to feel normal and safe at times and so I coped by avoiding a lot of things. Although I haven’t been in a Middle Eastern combat zone in a few years, I still occasionally get anxiety, but I recognize why it’s happening and I don’t let it affect anyone around me.”
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common addition to thousands of soldier’s lives which can be mild to severe after returning home from being deployed.
As much as Deville loves his job and nomad bachelor lifestyle, he tells me family comes first above all.
He says, “I’m most thankful for my family. I love all my brothers and sisters in law and nieces and nephews and my mom and dad. Having them is everything.”
He continues to tell me a touching memory he had experienced with his niece, Kat, who convinced him to drive to Yosemite with her on a whim completely unexpected and unplanned.
He leaves off with a hint of advice for life. Deville says, “Always be a kid. Always play. Do great things to impress yourself, not others.”
Names were changed to respect privacy