KILLEEN — Mark Bryant remembers growing up in “land-poor Texas,” not far from where he now lives in Killeen, with dreams of going to college. This plan did not work out and so he decided to join the army.
Joining the United States Armed Forces was not part of his childhood dreams, but he says it turned out to be one of the best things he ever did.
“I’ve been blessed,” said the 57-year-old Virginia native. “I literally traveled the world. North Pole, Australia, Guam, Philippines, Japan…all those places.
“Joining the Navy not only allowed me to learn, but also to go to different countries and different cultures. To experience their way of life and understand that here in America we live a life of absolute fulfillment. We have in America everything you could hope for…that other cultures can only dream of having the opportunity to have.
“We take it for granted because we live it, but if we were to actually experience another culture, we would have a deeper understanding of what the rest of the world has to go through.”
Bryant, who now works for the town of Killeen, was born in Fort Eustis, Va., the son of a U.S. Army staff sergeant and Vietnam veteran. He planned to go to college after graduating in 1983 from Killeen High School, but things didn’t go as he hoped.
“At one time when I was growing up, I lived in the Briggs area (about 30 miles southeast of Killeen-Fort Hood) in a trailer. The trailer did not have working plumbing. We had to use an outhouse and get well water.
“My father was stationed at Fort Hood, but he was rarely there. He and my mother divorced, and my father and my mother-in-law, my sister and I went to Germany for three years. I moved back to Fort Hood, where we stayed in Pershing Park for a little while, then moved to the house I currently own here in Killeen.
“I was in Germany during high school until my senior year when I came back and graduated from high school. My plan was to go to college. My dad said he had money set aside and he didn’t, so instead of being able to go to college – I got accepted to Mary Hardin-Baylor (in Belton) – I got angry and I joined the navy.
“I had seen what the army was like, and I said, no, it’s not for me. So I signed with the Navy.
He completed Basic Training and School A (the Army’s equivalent of Advanced Individual Training or AIT) in Orlando, Florida. He describes it as a “stressful” time.
“It was a time of transition in the service from the 70s when drill instructors could physically lay hands on you. In the 80s they changed that. They weren’t really allowed to lay hands on you , but they still arranged it where you had your hands laid on… if you understand me.
“They don’t do that anymore, but at the time, we turned a blind eye to a lot of things that happened.
“During school A, I decided I didn’t want to do a carrier, because that was my likely duty station. They said, ‘We promised you a job, not where you would be.’ So I looked around and the submarine department was recruiting in that area, so I said, “Take me away.
“They said, ‘No, mate, not so fast. It’s not like that here. You must qualify to be one of us.
He entered the submarine service and enjoyed his job as a navigator, but his career was cut short and Bryant was discharged on medical grounds after three years of service. Despite everything, he fondly remembers that time. Working for months underwater, living in tight spaces, was a challenge, but it was something that suited him.
“Claustrophobia is the least of the worries,” Bryant said. “On a submarine, your situation is static. This means that whatever problems you encounter in port and bring on the submarine, you can’t fix any of them until you get back to port. You have no communication…and then you have the stress of work tasks.
“That’s how I see it. Underwater service requires people to be of a certain nature. Basically, you have to be a borderline sociopath. Which means you have to be able to switch your ability to do the job on command on and off, because you’re in such a hostile situation.
“When I went there, it was at the height of the Cold War. Things were different in the 80s. For all intents and purposes, you were always (considered) at war with the sub – always. This is part of the requirement.
“There are two types of submarines. They have what they call “boomers”, meaning the ones you see on TV, coming out with nuclear missiles ready to push the button. Then you have the “quick attack”, which has only one purpose – they are the bait. The message to the enemy is: ‘You don’t want them (baby boomers). Look at me; look at me. Come chase me. I was on a fast attack submarine.
His longest time underwater was 87 consecutive days, Bryant said. It was a tedious duty, but not as hard as some of its predecessors.
“40s War Subs… you basically had to be a super ironman to be on those. I would have hated to be on one of them. The 80’s subs were much better, but still not as good as today’s subs.
“Over the generations the conditions become more manageable, but in the 80s it was quite stressful and cramped. Nothing like today. »
Bryant entered the Navy in August 1983 and left in July 1986 as E-3, QMSN (Quartermaster Seaman). When he was released it was disappointing, but he mostly took it all in stride.
“Because of the way I am, I just decided that I was starting a new aspect of my life,” he said. “I was stationed in Treasure Island, California, and I just took a bus to Florida.
“It was just a random decision. I had enough money in my pocket to get to Panama City Beach, Florida. I got there and when my first (Navy disability) check came , I rented an apartment and got a job at Woolworths (an old five hundred pioneer department store) as a janitor and restaurant attendant.
“The manager decided I had potential, so he signed me up for the management program and I moved to Thomasville, Georgia. I did the management training program there, and during that time, I contacted my dad. He wasn’t well, so I went back to Killeen. That was mid-1987.
“I stayed with him for a few months, mostly working in fast food. I worked for Fajita Function, and in ’89 I became a manager for them at Cedar Park. I met a girl who also worked there, and we decided to get married and move to Asheville, North Carolina, where she was from.
“Then the recession hit; down abandoned by everything. I couldn’t find a job, so I ended up working for a restaurant for a few years. I hurt my neck – I blew a record – and at that time I was working for a hospital. She was pregnant, so we moved to Georgia, where her parents lived. I worked there for NTW (National Tire Warehouse), which was owned by Sears.
“My wife and I ended up getting a divorce and she had my son. I moved across the country again because I couldn’t take care of it.
“So I went back to California, and I transferred from NTW to Sears, and I got into Sears’ management program for their automotive center. He stayed with them until about 2000, then went to work. for a hardware business. In 2003, my father died, and two months later my mother, who lived in Houston, died. At that point, my current wife and I decided to move back to Killeen and take over my father’s house.
These days, Bryant is a state-licensed SCADA (scientific control and data acquisition) senior technician for the city’s water and sewer department. It’s a lonely job with a lot of responsibility – something he says suits him very well.
“Basically what I do is… from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., I monitor the flow of water throughout the city via storage tanks, towers and lift stations. I am the only person on duty for the town of Killeen from 3am to 11am.
“I also have to deal with all the overflow calls throughout the city that are not related to the police and fire department. I deal with complaints and all sorts of things that are not really part of my job, but I still have to deal with them.
“I have worked for the city for 14 years. I like my job. I take it very seriously. I have the health and safety of 150,000 people on my shoulders every day. Water and sewer… people don’t think about it, but this industry is so vital. Without water and sewage, we would have no cities. No cities. No hospitals. No firefighter. No font.
When not at work, the married father of two and grandfather of one spends much of his free time working around the house, playing computer games and mostly writing stories horror stories published in what he calls 100-word “microsagas.” He has two self-published books under the pen name, Ciofki, titled “Goth-Ick Tales”, and available on Amazon.