As a troublemaker in middle school, Navy Lt. Vernon Costello got into fights.
His uncle told him, “If you want to fight, fight to protect our country. Don’t fight because someone made fun of your name. Give them a real reason to remember your name.” Costello emphasized ‘real’ by shaking his fist.
Costello’s uncle, who served in the Vietnam War, inspired him to join the military. His uncle “provided great insight into the strengths that can come from serving a country,” Costello said.
There were also “battles of disrespect” his uncle faced upon returning home, Costello said. People would spit at his uncle when they learned he was a soldier in Vietnam, he said.
Costello, now 37, has made the military his career. As a naval flight officer, he has served for 20 years and is currently stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. He plans to serve as long as he can.
Costello and his wife, Bernadette, 38, flew to D.C. for the Veterans Day event at the Vietnam War Memorial. They won the trip from a contest held by his base.
Reporting by Lara Szott