Navy vet Singleton speaks at Stennis

Published 5:38 pm Thursday, February 15, 2007

NAVOCEANO hosted CDR Damon Singleton, a meteorologist with WDSU-TV in New Orleans, as guest speaker for the annual Black History Observance. CDR Singleton is Navy Retired after 22 years in service to his country.

Executive Officer, Capt. Brian Brown introduced the speaker, and noting the many contributions African Americans have made in the military in service to our great nation. He said one of NAVOCEANO’s oceanographic ships was named for an African American, Matthew A. Henson who was one of the first men to the North Pole.

Singleton rose above the tornado damage to his home, neighborhood, and his speech notes to present an inspiring oration on the theme, “From Slavery to Freedom”.

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“I miss the Navy,” he said. “I miss the camaraderie and the sense of service to this great nation and the great people of this nation. I miss being around great young Americans with a great sense of purpose.”

Singleton’s theme centered around the young American’s mindset of “slavery mentality”. He emphasized that young people too often accept the concept “that’s impossible”. “Never accept that,” he said, “when we accept ‘that’s impossible’ it is then we become a part of the slavery mentality.”

Being a part of the Big Brother program, Singleton observed that kind of thinking, and saw parents perpetuate it with their responses to their children. Such as one young mother who told her son his answers on his homework, “that’s stupid.” After Singleton had his time with his little brother, he took the time to tell the mother, “if you want your son to grow up stupid, then keep telling him he’s stupid.”

Singleton went on to say that young people cannot be limited by someone’s, “You can’t do that.” When they have dreams of becoming a princess, then “you can’t tell her she can’t be a princess. You’ve got to tell her she can be a princess; and she can be so much more.”

Too often, it is about poor leadership of the parents, he said, but it is also about ignorance of heritage. When confronted by a young black male, Singleton was told that he wasn’t Black enough. He spoke too proper, he wore suits and ties and that wasn’t Black enough. Singleton smiled and said, “I speak proper? Thank you. Young man, you need to redefine Black.” He went on to say that Black History is really American History. The slave heritage was about endurance and never quitting. There is nothing in that heritage that says, “that’s impossible.”

A people suffered greatly and still endured. They dreamed and believe, never accepting their condition. [Young people] need to learn their history, African American history, American history and faith history.

Singleton blamed the parents and adults for allowing the young people to take the wrong path. Adults need to take time to educate our youth about what respect and disrespect is; and to educate them that nothing is impossible.

After his first four years, he was ready to get out and pursue his meteorological career. He turned in his resignation letter and every officer from his chief to the EO to the ship’s captain urged him to reconsider his decision to leave the Navy. Because those men he respected took time to guide him and encourage him, he was able to make a wise decision and stay in the Navy as a career. “Those older adults influenced me. From slavery to freedom, it is in the mentality and in the personal involvement that makes the difference in young lives. If we can get just a few people to take that on as a mission, it can make this world a better place,” he said.

The retired commander used his own experience getting his job at the New Orleans TV station as an example. He has a degree in meteorology, then spent 22 years in the Navy. He got a friend to help him with his resume so he could follow his dream of following the weather. His friend tried to tell him that New Orleans might be too big a place to start, and why not start smaller, get a bit of experience so he could sink or swim.

“I’ve brought a destroyer alongside an oiler in 12-foot seas. I can start in New Orleans. I know a lot about sinking and swimming.”

He was able to transfer his Naval career experience and degree in meteorology to a civilian career where his nickname is Commander.

Participating in numerous military operations, Singleton held critical leadership positions ashore and at sea and has numerous Navy awards to his credit. He earned a degree in meteorology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and holds a master’s degree from the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.