U.S. Navy; Petty Officer 2nd Class
Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley
Upon graduating high school, Jim Quirk knew he wasn’t ready for college. His Dad was an Army Officer, but Jim had grown up on boats and around the water in Delaware.He figured he’d like to keep it that way, so he enlisted in the Navy. Upon signing up, he found out that if he gave two years of active duty and six years in the Reserve, the Navy would cover his college costs – it seemed like a good deal!
Jim was given the option to do his basic training in Orlando, San Diego, or Illinois; he selected Orlando. He says it didn’t take long to realize that was “a mistake,” given how hot Central Florida can be.
After boot camp, Jim was sent to apprentice school and was then assigned to the USS America – an aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was placed in the Engineering Department as a machinist. He was part of the “A” division, for hydraulics, and says it was a “Nice job. Lots of time in the fresh air.”
Describing life on an aircraft carrier, Jim says, “It’s like its own little city, self-contained on the water. It has everything you need, and if you didn’t have it, you could make it.” The USS America had 6,000 Sailors and Marines on board, and at the time it was being re-fitted for the F-18 fighter jet.
Jim’s time at sea included lots of 2-8 day tours off Virginia, Guantanamo Bay, the North Atlantic past the Arctic Circle, but he never passed the Equator – he missed it by just a few days. His longest stint at sea was 4.5 months, and it was also his last. Leaving the final time, he was able to fly off which he says was “pretty exciting!”
Jim says he was “beyond eager to get back to land and civilian life, even despite the Navy’s offer of re-enlistment bonuses.” He enrolled at Newman University, and studied clinical lab science, because he had always been interested in biology. While in the Navy, a friend had worked at an eye bank. He told Jim about it, and Jim decided to check it out for himself. He worked at the Kansas Eye B during college and says, “I had the most unique part-time job of all my friends.”
The day after graduation, Jim was hired full time at the Medical Eye Bank of Delaware, which later merged and became Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley. He says, “The military teaches you responsibility, and I had tremendous responsibility as an eye banker. During a recovery, everything is on the eye tech. It takes a certain person with a certain attention and dedication to do it and do it well. A lot of accountability and responsibility is involved.”
Looking back on his time in the military, Jim is shocked about how much responsibility he was given at such a young age. “At 20, I was the nighttime supervisor for my shop on the ship – some kid is just in charge of everything! The level of responsibility is on you at a young age…The military writes the book on procedures. Procedures get followed or things go wrong.”
Jim laughs when asked if military culture has stayed with him and says, “You either rebel against it or totally embrace it. I’m sure my wife wishes my ability to fold clothes perfectly stayed with me.” In all seriousness, he also says, “The military teaches you to pay attention to detail…and in today’s world it’s a very different decision to enlist. You must weigh the pros and cons. Patriotism and wanting to give back is important, but it also depends on the personality. If nothing else, it gives you a tremendous education. You can always apply that in the private sector and have a great career.”