Curtis Abbott had already visited Army and Air Force recruiting offices, heard the sales pitches, glanced at brochures and admired the posters lining the office walls that are familiar to any who have once been wowed by promises of a prosperous future in the military.
Wanting to meticulously weigh which service branch would be most beneficial, Abbott decided to make an additional stop on his recruiting office tour — this time the Navy variety. Accompanied by his mother, Melissa Ensey, the 18-year-old Abbott walked into the Missouri office, sat down and and readied to listen intently to Navy Career Counselor 1st Class Shawn Dery explain everything the Navy could offer.
Not long into the conversation, Abbott realized that the Navy was his best chance at a ticket to seeing the world and developing an invaluable and enduring skill set. Dery’s persuasive presentation evidently left such an impression on the pair that Abbott’s mother even joked, “Too bad I can’t join, too." Dery was quick to fire back.
To meet the challenging recruiting numbers needed to fill the ranks of a rapidly growing Navy, the service altered the age ceiling in January 2018 for prospective enlistees to 39, a Department of Defense release said. Having initially believed she was beyond the age limit, the suddenly-eligible 37-year-old Ensey began envisioning the benefits a Navy life could yield for her and her family. Sitting in the office next to her son, she decided to go for it.
“It seems like it’ll be a really good thing for her," said Abbott, who admitted being surprised when his mom became serious about enlisting. "She can finish getting all the education she’s always wanted. Plus, my sister will be able to go to college.”
Asked how he managed to get a mother-son tandem to enlist, Dery told DoD it was simple.
“I just showed them the proof of it,” he said. “I just show them what’s out there for them and let them make their own decisions. It does make me feel good when I see people come from smaller towns and join the Navy and go off to see the world and do things they might not have ever been able to do."
For Abbott and Ensey, that decision now means heading to recruit training in Great Lakes, Illinois, together, an ordeal that Ensey said makes her nervous to think about, but one she is happy to be tackling with some familiar company.
“It’s almost more comforting knowing that he’s going to be there, too,” she said in the release, “and I am excited for it.”
Once they complete recruit training, Abbott will move on to pursue life as a supply logistics specialist, the report said. Ensey, meanwhile, aims to become a master-at-arms as part of the Navy’s security force.
Both are well-equipped for success, according to Dery, who spent considerable time working with the duo.
The two were sworn in at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Kansas City, Missouri, on Aug. 21, mother and son, side-by-side, raising their right hands and taking the oath of enlistment to become sailors in the United States Navy.
The unique experience is one that will resonate for both, they said.
“It was an emotional moment,” Ensey said. “Making this commitment alongside my son is something I will never forget. I’m proud of him and I hope he is proud of me.”
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.