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'It was all worth it' | Family, friends of retired naval flight officer celebrate his accomplishments

"I would hope that people can look at me and at least say, ‘Hey, if he can do it, I can do it too,’" Lt. Cmdr. Stewart said

BEAUMONT, Texas — Members of the Southeast Texas community gathered to celebrate the accomplishments and retirement of a Beaumont man who has been in the U.S. Navy for more than two decades.

Lt. Cmdr. Carl Stewart, Jr. has been in the Navy for 26 years.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Lt. Cmdr. Stewart said. “You know, I got to do something I dreamed of doing. When I joined, I never thought I’d be flying. I just wanted to do four years, be around it for a little bit, come back home, go to school.”

Once he joined, the plans changed.

“I just kept on going,” Lt. Cmdr. Stewart said. “It’s been a blast. A lot of it I’m going to miss, but I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter, moving forward to something else."

Lt. Cmdr. Stewart joined the Navy once he graduated from West Brook High School in 1995. He was an aviation electronics technician on his first tour.

“I decided I wanted to go air crew,” he said. “So, I applied to be an naval air crewman, went to school for that. I was a H-53 crew chief, and I did that for the next 12 years."

Lt. Cmdr. Stewart did numerous tours during his time in the military.  

“On my second tour is kind of where I started deciding, you know, if I was going to stay in. I wanted to be an officer,” he said. “So on my next [sic] tour, I went to school full time and got my degree and went ahead and applied for commission. Got accepted.”

The rewarding career was by no means easy. Lt. Cmdr. Stewart said it takes time management and discipline.

“Flight training is tough,” he said. “They throw, what they call the water hose effect, they throw a lot of information at you. You have to take all that stuff in, go study. You get a couple days, and then you’re in your first event.”

Lt. Cmdr. Stewart said a person has to want to be there.

“The people that’s like, ‘Uh, I just got aviation but I wanted something else,’ they don’t make it through the training,” he said. “You have to want to be there, have to want to fly.”

Once a person is done studying, they spend a lot of time in a simulator and begin gaining muscle memory of the cockpit and more. There were times where Lt. Cmdr. Stewart did not know how he was going to figure everything out.

“But you get through it,” he said. “You keep your eye on the prize of where you want to get. Get those wings. It’s not easy. It is tough, but it was a blast. It was all worth it.”

Lt. Cmdr. Stewart's love of flying began with his dad. He went from flying model navy fighter jets with his dad, to actually being behind the wheel of one. 

“I was an aviation nut before I joined the military,” he said. “That started with my dad he loves aircraft. We flew RC airplanes."

Lt. Cmdr. Stewart knew he wanted to be around aviation.

“I’d get off from work and just be standing out there on the flight lines just watching airplanes take off and land,” he said. “I was on Cloud 9. When it got the point of flying, it was just like, 'Man, I cant wait to go to work tomorrow to do it again.'"

Some of Lt. Cmdr. Stewart's inspiration came from his cousin.

“The whole reason I chose to join the Navy, when I decided I was going to join the military, was because of my cousin,” he said. “He flew jets in the Navy.”

That cousin mentored Lt. Cmdr. Stewart while he was in the military. Stewart hopes he can inspire those who would like to follow in his foot steps.

"I would hope that people can look at me and at least say, ‘Hey, if he can do it I can do it too,’” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of that representation growing up. I was lucky to have that one person that gave me that little nudge to go in that direction.”

In March 2022, Lt. Cmdr. Stewart touched down at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport . 

"Came back down here, showing the kids, 'Hey, if y'all want to do that, any of y'all can do that. If you want it you go and do what you got to do to get it.," he said.

During his time in the Navy, Lt. Cmdr. Stewart learned to do things he never though he could. At one point, he had to swim a mile. The words from someone he met got him through it.

"He told me, 'I’d rather see you go down there, give it everything you got and not make it and at least know where you stand, then to not try and to spend the rest of your time wondering what if you made it through. Just go down there. Give it 100%, and you’ll be amazed what you’re capable of doing,'" he said.

Lt. Cmdr. Stewart took that mantra all the way through the rest of his career.

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