Melissa Park-Hanneman

US Navy, 1998-2002

“To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all…”

Melissa Hanneman graduated from Choctaw County high school, located in Butler, Alabama in 1998. She was the only girl to complete the automotive vocational course in her school.

With both grandfathers, her father and step-father having served in the military there was some established tradition to join up. However, Melissa’s motivation was simple and two-fold. She wanted out of Alabama and her high school boyfriend was joining with her. She tested very high on her aptitude test and they both were sworn in. 

Since it was the beginning of the computer age, and Melissa had never used a computer in Alabama, she signed up for radioman school which incorporated computers, even though they were still using DOS programming. She completed her basic training and A school at the Great Lakes Naval Training Facility in April of 1999. Her training class was half male, half female and all sailors were treated as equals.

She asked for remote “undesirable duty” so as to better see the world. She was land based her entire enlistment, starting out with top secret radio clearance in Diego Garcia.

Melissa moved to Texarkana after her discharge earning a degree in Criminal Justice. It was here she met her future husband Chris. They have been married for ten years.

Seven years ago she and Chris were selected to become the adoptive parents of six week old Rylie. They moved to Findlay, Ohio for Chris’s employment. Melissa is active as a mom, a child advocate with CASA and loves to restore old furniture. Last year she helped start a new girl scout troop.

Her life creed is “Over, under, around and through.” “Nothing is insurmountable!”

Her mom is her idol. She raised her brother and Melissa for six years as a single mom. She is a survivor of Stage4 cancer. When her mom lost her hair from treatment Melissa shaved her head also to share the experience with her mother.

In her own words Melissa shares her experiences in the US Navy.

“I was a woman warrior! I am a Veteran of the United States Navy. I am one of the 1.4% of the female population of The United States that chose to serve this country. 

I served from August 1998 through August 2002 as an Information Systems Technician with a top secret security clearance. 

I watched the bombing of Iraq in December 1998 on the news with my fellow sailors in training. We were all sure we were going into a war. I saw the classified pictures of the USS Cole when it was bombed in October 2000. Seventeen sailors, all young kids like myself, were killed.

I was on duty in Radio as the World Trade Centers were being hit. Flash Top Secret messages began flying left and right. Many of my fellow sailors were scared because they were mostly from New York City. Cell phone lines were down as they frantically tried to find out if their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters were alive. 

I still cry thinking about that, seeing the images coming in, listening with horror to what was transpiring. 

These are facts. My feelings are different as I feel guilty when people thank me for my service. I feel guilty because in my mind I wasn’t doing anything special. I was doing a job that needed done. I loved my job, I was good at it.

BUT, I wasn’t on the front lines, I didn’t smell the burning powder, I don’t feel like I did anything special, I signed a contract and did my job. 

I will however, ALWAYS be proud that I am a United States Navy Veteran.