U.S. Navy Surgeon General Vice. Adm. Adam Robinson discusses Navy Medicine policy with Ben Avey and Navy leaders during his visit to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka in 2010. A member of the hospital's Executive Steering Committee, Avey is charged with communicating with hospital beneficiaries in Yokosuka and at eight branch clinics in Japan, Korea and Diego Garcia. Brother Ben’s story, in his own words, follows on the next page.
I was recently reminded that brotherhood, while given great lip service in the Greek community, is not inherently present in a fraternity. It is something young pledges and brothers learn and must be passed from one generation to the next less it whither away.
For me, brotherhood was an afterthought of “frat” life when I arrived at San Diego State in the fall of 1999. “Frats” seemed like lots of fun with a mystique that made it all the more alluring. A provocative flyer posted in my dorm promising a good time drew me to a large house with lion statues where my future big brother (with two scantily clad women) explained to me why I should pledge SAE.With the promise of epic parties, a harem of women and a great group guys who I had already started to befriend, I was hooked and signed a bid the next day. While the harem of women may have been exaggerated a bit, it proved to be an overall wise life decision.
Unlike many of my non-SAE friends, there was an inherent trust with my newly minted brothers. I knew that when I was in trouble, help was a phone call away. Young or old, friend or foe, I knew that SAE’s would have my back against all others. It may have been the byproduct of a budding house vying for recognition as a “top house”, but in the end, it was us against the world and we were unified in the effort.
Nearly twelve years after I signed my bid, I was reminded of that inherent trust, or brotherhood, when a different effort prompted me to seek the help of my SAE brothers. I didn’t need them to drive me home from a bar or get into a fight, I didn’t need bail and I didn’t need a ride to the hospital.
I needed them to take care of my wife and newborn daughter who were being evacuated from Japan.
Following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a nuclear reactor 180 miles to the north of the American navy base we called home suffered a catastrophic failure of its cooling systems and began melting down. The containment buildings exploded and winds pushed toxic plumes of radioactive contamination south, thrusting our community into a voluntary evacuation of family members and non- essential personnel.
As the Public Affairs Officer for U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, which quickly became a key player in the ensuing public health crisis, the Navy requested that I stay in Japan to support operational needs.
My wife boarded a shuttle bus bound for the nearest air force base in the middle of the night with a single 40-pound suitcase, a stroller and a 4-month-old baby. She had all our important documents, photos and memories. I kissed her goodbye not knowing when we would meet again. It was a dynamic situation and we truly didn’t know how or when it would all come to an end.
A couple of quick e-mails and phone calls after her departure confirmed our tentative plan in short order. She would go to San Diego where my SAE brothers would help her until my work in Japan was done. My brothers never hesitated, never wavered and took on the newly sworn duty without a second thought.They gave my family a place to sleep, donated toys to my daughter, provided daycare so my wife could return to work, apartment shopped, moved furniture, helped my wife buy a car and even escorted her to the airport to pick me up for a long awaited reunion.
For two and a half months they did everything they could to help without question and without fail. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Call it brotherhood, call it friendship, call it whatever you want, but its what SAE means to me and what fraternity is all about. For the sake of future brothers, I hope it continues. Special thanks to brothers Chris McCoy, Mark Dewey, Adam Porter and Tom Hawes.
Editor’s note: — Brother Ben Avey is a native of Sacramento and a 2006 graduate of San Diego State. In 2008 Brother Avey followed his wife Kyla, a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, to her new duty station Yokosuka Japan where he was hired as a civilian public relations professional. Upon his return to San Diego this August, Avey will reunite with his wife and daughter Kinsley and serve as the Government and Media Relations Manager for Family Health Centers of San Diego.