Some Odessans will be off work and showing their respect to the U.S. soldiers and veterans for Memorial Day locally, but one will be celebrating the holiday on a U.S. Navy ship in Japan with her fellow sailors.
Gunner’s Mate Second Class Brenna Benham said her and her shipmates will be having a “steel beach picnic” where everyone goes onto the flight deck and grills hot dogs and hamburgers and celebrates the holiday.
“We all just come together as a crew and a family and play games and remember the people who have gone before us and honor them,” Benham said.
As a Gunner’s Mate, Benham is stationed on the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville in Yokosuka, Japan. Her job involves working on missiles as a vertical launching systems technician, making sure missiles are operable and working properly should their use be needed.
Benham will be going home on leave in July, but said she plans to make a career in the Navy.
“Now that I’m a part of this job, I realize how much it’s helped me grow and, being on a different side of the world, it’s really shown me there’s much more in life than staying in one spot,” Benham said.
Benham was born in New Mexico, but raised in Odessa, and graduated from Permian High School. Right before her graduation, she enlisted in the Navy, and shipped off to boot camp two months later, something she said she was inspired to do by her grandfather, who also served in the Navy. Almost four years later, she’s still there.
“I knew I wanted to join the military because it’s something bigger than I am,” Benham said. “It would mean a lot to my family and to me, so I thought it would be a really good route to take for me to better my future.”
Benham said Memorial Day has grown in significance for her since she joined the military, and has given her greater respect for those who have gone before her fighting for this country.
“It’s an honor being able to step forward for my family and friends back home and know that I’m a part of something bigger than myself and making a difference in small steps,” she said. “It’s one of those things that really makes you realize what an honor it is to serve in the world’s greatest Navy.”