By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Thomas Clearwater’s plan was to continue his service with the U.S. Navy and to some day retire to spend more time with the family he would start with his wife, Ruthie, who currently works as an emergency room nurse at Hilo Medical Center.
He had already put in more than a decade of dedicated service, working first as an electrician’s mate, and later as a shipboard fireman, a law enforcement specialist, a security guard for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and even training and participating in missions with Navy SEAL Team 4.
But, his plans for the future were thrown for a loop when he found he was unable to reenlist and earn his retirement pay for a variety of reasons that he says were mainly caused as fallout from President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
“Unfortunately, now with this whole new Obamacare, they’re not letting military members reenlist because they don’t wanna pay pensions anymore,” Clearwater said. “And they don’t wanna pay for 100 percent medical disability anymore. So if you have 14 or 16 years, they don’t want to let you reenlist because they don’t want to pay your 20-year retirement. Which would have been great, because I could get a mortgage and help pay some of the bills. But that’s not gonna happen now.”
And so, with two years left on his Top Secret security clearance, Clearwater finds himself back in the civilian workforce, looking for a full-time job to help pay the bills. And more importantly, he added, to help give him a sense of direction back.
“That’s the hardest part, right now: Not having the military as a backbone. You know what they say about idle hands. The mind starts to revert back to what’s happened in your past and stuff like that. Staying active and getting right back into the workforce, or being part of something greater than yourself is real important. Being part of a team.”
That’s why he’s looking for work in law enforcement, or on a security team, or some other opportunity where he can bring his skills to bear, Clearwater said.
Most recently serving on a Special Reaction Team at the Naval Air Facility in Atsugi, Japan, Clearwater says he’s at his best when he’s under pressure — the kind of pressure that most of us never get to experience.
“When things get out of hand, people get excited and antsy,” he said. “There’s a reactionary gap to certain threat levels, and you can see things before they happen. You have to do something like that to know what I’m talking about. You can train as much as you want, but the reality is that when it hits the fan, you don’t know how you’re going to react.”
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veteran: Thomas Clearwater
Served as: Master at Arms, U.S. Navy
Assignment: Most recently, Clearwater served as a special operator with the Naval Special Reaction Team (SRT) at the Naval Air Facility at Atsugi/Camp Zama Army Garrison, Japan, between 2010 and 2012. He has also guarded detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, served as a law enforcement specialist with the Navy in Italy, worked as an electrician’s mate, and trained with SEAL Team 4.
Lives in: Hawaiian Paradise Park, Keaau
Job sought: Clearwater says he is hoping to find employment in law enforcement or personal security. As a long-term goal, he also dreams of one day purchasing the Nautilus dive shop in downtown Hilo and teaching people how to scuba dive and snorkel.
Contact: People interested in contacting Perez should call Melvin Arai at the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations at (808) 981-2860, ext. 227.