Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Veteran Don Raymond poses with military portraits of his family, including his from 1984, left, two of his nephews, his brother-in-law and his niece, at his mother's home on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020 in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.

Don Martin Raymond was meant to be in the military. It was just a matter of which branch he chose.

He had a great-grandfather who was a co-pilot in the Air Force. He had a grandfather who was a Navy Seabee.

Originally, Raymond's passion was to be in the Air Force. But a vision test prevented that, so he chose the U.S. Navy.

As it turns out, it was a wise choice.

In four years from 1983-87, Raymond worked his way up the ranks of the Navy, starting as an enlisted seaman to the head communications specialist for the ship. After being granted Top Secret security clearance in 1984, he was chosen for the special forces search-and-rescue swimmer training, from which he graduated top in his class and became a team member.

"It was just an extra job because I was an outstanding swimmer. I liked to swim for miles," Raymond said. "So I got to go to the Persian Gulf and support that effort as a search-and-rescue swimmer while I was doing my regular job."

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Veteran Don Raymond poses with his Navy portrait from 1984 at his mother's home on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020 in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.

But what also came in handy was the two years Raymond spent training as a paramedic, which became important one night during the Iran-Iraq War, when the Iraqis bombed a supertanker.

"We only had one doctor on our ship, so the captain had kind of made me an assistant to go on top of everything else I did because I knew a lot about the medical field," Raymond said. "So that night, I was awakened and told to go to the ship's bridge immediately, so I threw my pants on and went up there and was told to get to medical immediately.

"It was crazy. Crazy, crazy."

Raymond was part of a group that helped treat soldiers that night, prepping them for a flight to Qatar. His efforts earned him a Meritorious Service Award for operations and an invitation to join the elite special forces, where he earned a perfect score on the test to receive a recommendation for what is now called the Navy Seals.

He was scheduled to move to the West Coast, but elected to stay on the East Coast to deal with a family crisis. By the time he was prepared to make the move, the deadline had passed.

He was honorably discharged in 1987, but immediately signed up for re-enlistment after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He was thanked for the offer, but not accepted due to taking care of young children.



Name: Don Martin Raymond

Age: 59

Branch of Military: U.S. Navy

Years of Service: 1983-87

(Read about other local veterans in our "21-Veteran Salute" series here)

His time in the military gave him the opportunity to visit 27 different countries.

"Traveling, seeing the world was absolutely amazing. The different people, different cultures were absolutely fascinating for me," Raymond said. "I wasn't a typical sailor that just went out and got drunk and you know, whatever this or that. I saw the country, I ate the food, I spent time with the people."

Raymond, a Vermont native, moved to Tennessee in 1975. He's now a suffering Vols football fan.

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