Veteran: Eva Vega
Branch of Military: U.S. Navy
Honors and Accomplishments: Search Evade Resist and Escape School (SERE), Humanitarian Award for Hurricane Ivan, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom, Founder & Co-Owner of Thyme and play.
“At the end of it, I cried watching the American flag being raised.”
When I was 11 years old, coming from a family rich with military service, my goal was to join the United States Navy. As a hispanic female, however, I didn’t anticipate the trials that would come along with this dream. I was pushed to the brink mentally and physically, but, in the end, it was one of the greatest decisions of my life.
Honor. Courage. Commitment. These words held new meaning at the end of bootcamp and as I transitioned into the Naval Air Crew Candidate School (NAACS). The physicality of bootcamp and NAACS were demanding, but I was able to persevere without too much resistance.
…without too much resistance. That didn’t last long. Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape School was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Out of 62 individuals, I was the only girl and the only hispanic – they reminded me of that every day. Throughout school I was told stories; some I took with a grain of salt, others I knew were going to test me in ways I’ve never experienced. Prisoner of War (POW) school was one of those experiences.
Throughout POW school I was beat, interrogated, and treated like an actual prisoner. At one point, I broke down and believed that this was real and I was not longer in training. The fantasy I had of the military when I was younger quickly vanished, as I now realized the sacrifice necessary to serve my country.
I learned a lot about myself during SERE school and fully understood my purpose in the military. In the end, I cried watching the American flag being raised. In that moment, I didn’t see just a piece of material swaying in the wind, I saw the hope and freedoms that so many selflessly gave their lives to protect. I felt privileged to wear my military uniform and honored at the opportunity to be a member of the United States Military.
“Everyone survived…except a cow.”
Upon graduation, I began my deployment out of Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. The majority of the 12,000 hours I logged in the air were non-combat situations, but the missions did not lack in intensity.
The first story that comes to mind, actually, isn’t even combat related. Our objective was complete, and we were flying over the US back to base. There were two long communication antennas hanging out of the plane, and as we went to pull them up, they got stuck. The problem is, those two wires needed to come up or they could potentially cut off our wings and… that’s not good.
Our plane’s running low on fuel, and we’re circling Travis Air Force Base trying to think of what to do. As we’re running through ideas it becomes clear an emergency crash landing is our only option. The security troops on the ground couldn’t really hear what was going on, and when they heard that they started freaking out. All of us actually in the plane were honestly excited – it was our first time doing something like this!
I was given the task of calming everyone down since I was the only girl (and I guess that was a prerequisite for that?), but I don’t know if I did a good job [laughs]. I started asking everyone, “Hey guys, how’d you like Hawaii? What are you guys bringing home for your family?” We were just coming back with souvenirs, among many other things, from the island. After everyone lists off a few things, I cut in – “Aw, man, that sucks! All of that junk’s gonna be lost in the ocean when we crash!” I thought it was funny! They didn’t, and I wasn’t asked to calm anyone down moving forward.
We managed to get to the ground without losing our wings, and thankfully all of us were fine. Everyone survived… except a cow.
God, family, and values. I am thankful for everything the military taught me and I am proud that I was able to be apart of something bigger than myself. This has carried onto the next chapter of my life with my husband (Navy veteran), Henry, starting a restaurant that serves families with different types of “abilities.” The goal of our restaurant, Thyme and Play, is to allow everyone – families, veterans, and individuals living with disabilities – to have a good dining experience. A family is so important and every family should feel comfortable out to dinner. As a veteran you may feel isolated at times; we do not believe that any family should ever feel this type of isolation. Everyone should feel welcome and apart of a community.
Eva’s Restaurant – THYME and Play – is a female-veteran owned and operated restaurant that caters specifically to special needs families and veterans with PTSD.
If you’d like to donate to THYME and Play, you can at Warrior Rising! Here is Eva’s page.
Warrior Rising is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping U.S. Military veterans achieve success in business through partnerships, mentoring and funding. Mission 6 Zero is an organization comprised entirely of combat proven Special Operations Forces operators that works with law enforcement, professional athletes, and numerous companies to achieve optimal performance.
If you’d like to donate to Warrior Rising, here is their website.
If you’re interested in taking your organization or team to the next level, here is Mission 6 Zero’s website.
TickPick – Warrior of the Week
TickPick is proud to announce Warrior of the Week! We would like to thank US veterans for choosing to serve our country with free tickets to live events all across America. There are never enough ways to thank our veterans and their families.
Every week we will be gifting tickets to a veteran. It is important to show these heroes how grateful we are for having the courage to serve. Each veteran will be gifted tickets to a concert, show, or game of their choice anywhere in the country. While one night is far from enough, we hope a memorable night cheering on their favorite team or singing along to their favorite artist will show our appreciation.