(FOX 46 WJZY) - Hometown Hero Jay Russell grew up in Huntersville and graduated from Hopewell High School.
A few years ago he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the Navy.
“I never forced it on him, I just suggested it. And the day he told me, “Dad I think I decided to join the Navy,” and that blew me away,” said Jim Russell, Jay’s father while sitting in the family’s living room. “I just saw him materialize before my eyes. It was really cool.”
Russell is stationed at Naval Station Norfolk. He works in aviation ordnance, inspecting bombs.
“If I miss something that could be devastating,” said Jay Russell
I teamed up with Russell when suiting up for a week at the naval station and aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
“I grew up and he was my best friend and seeing him as a man, it’s kind of crazy to me,” said Harley Russell, Jay’s sister. “I’m very proud of him.”
But while looking through pictures, Jay’s family says it’s been a long road.
“A few years back he was sort of lost. what did he want to do, and now he’s living it,” said Michelle Russell, Jay’s mother. “He set out for a job and he did it and he did well.”
Russell is assigned to the USS George HW Bush. While underway he was awarded Sailor of the Day. He’s now married and his wife is pregnant with their second child.
“How many times did I tell you he’ll grow out of it, he’ll grow out of it,?” asked Jim Russell while talking to his wife.
Growing teenager, typical. This is a great reward for him just making some right choices,” said Michelle Russell.
Jay’s story is common at the base and aboard the ship.
Hometown Hero Taronda Anderson graduated from Harding University High School.
“I wanted to join the Navy because I needed structure,” she said.
Even the ship’s Command Master Chief was looking for more.
“I was that guy who was kind of like in college and then got kicked out of college and this was it, but then I grew up,” said James Stedding
CMC Stedding’s job is to develop the young sailors.
“Watching sailors grow and develop. Watching sailors come in at 18. They do 3 or 4 years and they decide to reenlist or they get promoted, they get advanced, they get their warfare qualifications. To me, that’s important,” he said.
Russell says he plans to reenlist. And he’s already applied those lessons from the Navy to his younger brother.
“I didn’t really care about school. I didn’t think it was important, but when I went down there he explained to me how important school is and what it’s going to do for you in the future,” said Timothy Russell, Jay Russell’s brother.
After living with Jay, TJ as his family calls him, went from failing to now earning A’s.
“I just really wanted to impress him. I wanted to prove everyone wrong that I am smart and I ended up getting Honor Roll,” said TJ.
A lesson Jim Russell says can only be taught in the military.
“I told him a couple years before he joined that you’ll learn respect. Learning how to respect yourself and respect others,” said Jay Russell.
And it appears as though the military will now run in the family, TJ says he plans to enlist. He said he doesn’t know about the Navy, but maybe the Marines or Coast Guard.