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Croft served in Iraqi War, in Far East and Middle East

MADISON – A random, helpful gesture in a checkout line helped Cherish Croft to enter the military.

After graduating from high school, Croft was working as a Walmart cashier in Kenosha, Wis. “I was unsure of the future I wanted for myself, and I wasn’t yet ready to go to college,” Croft said.

One day, a Navy recruiter walked through Croft’s checkout line and handed her a business card. In November 2001, Croft enlisted in the U.S. Navy. She only knew about the military from watching television shows, so her first days in the military were grueling.

“I was never athletic in high school and had a very difficult time adapting to the (military) culture,” she said. She worked hard to adjust to military life and the “tough love” that drill instructors gave to Croft.

“It was another world for me,” she said. “It was a lot more structure and discipline than I was used to. Initially, I felt out of my element. But, over time, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

For six years, Croft served as a Nuclear Machinist Mate and then converted to work four years as a Petty Officer 2nd Class, Sonar Technician.

She served in the Iraqi War. During her military career, Croft traveled to Malaysia, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Canada, Japan and Dubai.

During a trip to Japan, Croft was shopping for souvenirs but had little money. “I went with friends outside the main tourist areas and came across a 100-yen store (dollar store). It had to be one of the coolest little shops,” she said.

During her last deployment, Croft fondly remembers her sister’s thoughtfulness. Her sister set up a YouTube channel specifically for Croft and recorded a video of their sons opening presents at Christmas. Thanks to the YouTube channel, Croft did not have to “miss a single minute” of seeing her young son at Christmas.

Croft was stationed in San Diego, Calif. when her service ended on Aug. 15, 2012 as Petty Officer 2nd Class, Sonar Technician.

A week later, Croft and her son moved to Huntsville and she started working on a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. The G.I. Bill and the VA Vocational Rehab paid her tuition.

“Becoming a civilian was a bit of a challenge, but God has blessed me in the transition,” Croft said.

Croft and her eight-year-old son have lived in the Madison area for five years. She now works in structural design for The Boeing Company. Croft is a member of Madison American Legion, Post 229, “who supports needy veterans, Boy Scouts and JROTC, and they help maintain Madison City Veteran Park.”

Croft’s military experience led to financial security and close friendship. “The discipline and on-the-job training afforded me many opportunities and various perspectives that allowed me to be an asset in the engineering community,” she said.

Croft recommends military life for young people who lack clear career goals or those who lack the funding for higher education. “Even if you serve only a few years, you gain experience and discipline that are invaluable in the community. You afford yourself the opportunity to go to college if you previously have not had the financial ability to do so,” she said.

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