NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Three Navy sailors credit their service to those that inspired them most.
All month long, 10 On Your Side is taking you “On Deck” to look into life in the Navy. Last week, sailors from Hampton Roads talked about their jobs and experiences. This week, sailors explain why they decided to join the military. However, for three sailors, it’s not just about serving the country, an exciting career or seeing the world — it’s also about continuing a family legacy.
On one of Norfolk’s most iconic landmarks sits a plaque, honoring the officers who served on board the battleship USS Wisconsin. One of those names is Guy Zanti. His name is also inside the Nauticus Museum, in an article about launching tomahawk missiles in Operation Desert Storm. Now, with the same hull number — but on a different ship — his son, Michael, is following in his footsteps.
“I really admired my parents growing up, hearing all their stories and everything,” said Norfolk native Ensign Michael Zanti. “I didn’t want to do anything else, it was this or nothing.”
Michael’s mom, Kathleen Murray, also served for many years, and was the first woman to serve on a frigate. All three graduated from the Naval Academy.
“It’s the family business,” Michael said.
Michael is currently the communications officer onboard USS Gettysburg, docked at Naval Station Norfolk.
“It’s almost surreal,” Michael said. “You know, I would see people in uniform going to work every day, and now I’m doing the same thing.”
Those sailors in uniform — and his parents — inspired him to wear his own.
“Everyone I looked up to growing up was in the Navy, and I thought, ‘I should join the Navy,'” Michael said.
Michael’s Naval career is just beginning, but he’s already continuing a family legacy.
Carrying on the tradition is also why Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Wilson joined the military.
“My dad was in the Navy, and I always wanted to grow up and be just like him,” Wilson said. “When he found out I was going to join the Navy, he was like, ‘Man, this is going to be awesome for you, you’re going to love it.'”
Wilson is currently works on Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, in Virginia Beach. Through the Navy, he’s traveled the world.
“I came from nothing in a small town, and I’ve seen 20 countries, been around the world, been in every single ocean, got to experience all these cultures,” Wilson said. “I just got off deployment, and we saw 10 countries in northern Europe. It’s something out of a storybook, like, I could’ve never imagined that I would’ve grown up and gotten to see all the places I’ve seen, gotten to work on all the equipment I’ve worked on.”
For Chief Petty Officer Taylor Keys, there was only one thing he wanted to work on —submarines.
“The hardest part is being away from the family,” Keys said.
His career choice was inspired by someone very special to him.
“My grandpa was in the Navy,” Keys said. “He did submarines, he did 30 years. He was also an FT. After he passed away, you know, seven years ago, I tried the college thing — it didn’t work out. Can’t sit on the couch all day, so I was like, ‘Alright, let me go do what my grandfather did.'”
For him, there was no other option. While his grandfather is no longer here, he said he knows he’d be proud.
“Continuing the legacy is knowing everything that he did, and the values he instilled in me while I was growing up, and being able to instill that into my son and my daughter and keeping that going forward,” Keys said.
All three sailors tell 10 On Your Side the long nights and months away from home are worth it.
“On Deck: The Navy Experience” continues next week, when we take you out to an aircraft carrier to talk about life at sea.
You can watch our first “On Deck” story by clicking here.