Fontaine Stegall

Served in the Navy
from 2003 – 2009

When were you drafted or when did you enlist?

I enlisted.


Why did you choose your branch of service?

I knew that the Navy traveled and hit more ports than any other branch. So I chose the Navy because I wanted to see the world.


What do you remember about that day?

I remember arriving at bootcamp and being very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and I was worried I had made the wrong choice.


Can you describe a happy moment from your time in the service?

I was on my second deployment and we made a port stop in Jebel Ali, UAE for Christmas. Me and some other shipmates got to celebrate Christmas together in Dubai outside on a rooftop under the stars. There was a Christmas concert and dinner buffet on the rooftop as well, and it felt like being with family despite being so far away from mine.


Did your military experience inform the way you think about war or the military in general?

Yes, now I see it as such an important job and a huge sacrifice. I didn’t quite understand the gravity of it before I joined.


Who was your best friend in the military during your time at war? Do you still keep in touch with them today?

My best friend was Eddie Ortiz. He was in my same division with me and if you saw me, you’d likely see him and vice versa. We were always together, almost for every meal. He’d stop by my shop every day and ask, “you wanna go eat?” and I’d always reply, “of course I do!” We keep in touch via social media, and I’ve gotten to see him in his hometown, and he has visited me in Houston, but I definitely wish we would keep in contact more.


What were the first few months out of the service like?

I felt lonely. I moved to a new city right after and didn’t have friends there. I started going to school, but it was still hard to connect on campus. There was a six-year difference between me and my classmates.


Do you have advice for those transitioning out of the military?

Give yourself time and grace. Understand that it will feel very abrupt, and it takes some time to get used to. It’s a time to discover what you really want to do now that you have the freedom to do it.


If you hadn’t gone into the service, what do you imagine your career life would have been? Did you explore a different career after service?

It may have been similar because even before joining the Navy, I wanted to study engineering. I’m glad that I still decided to pursue engineering when I got out. However, being a veteran has opened so many doors for me and changed me for the better.


Please add any additional stories or meaningful memories that you’d like to share.

I learned that the community and family that I made in the Navy did not have to end with my service. When I got involved with Student Veterans of America, I got my family back. It was a community of individuals just like me, from all branches that were pursing their education after service. Some of my favorite memories were made at our National Conferences, which are the largest gathering of student veterans anywhere in the world. But my favorite memory was being asked to speak on behalf of student veterans at George W. Bush’s Stand-To 2017: A National Veterans Convening in D.C. After my speech, George W. Bush spoke and referenced me by name in his speech! Hearing a former president say my name was mind blowing and I’ll never forget it.