By the time of his retirement, Central High School grad Vance Fry had worked his way into the upper echelons of the U.S. Navy.
He got his engineering degree from the Naval Academy in 1960 and achieved the lofty rank of rear admiral when he retired in 1995, following more than three decades of service.
His career spanned more than a dozen stops as he worked his way from Naval Academy student to supply officer to instructor to a command post in which he oversaw eight of the Navy's 14 cargo handling battalions that were deployed to Southwest Asia, Europe and the Pacific in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He had as many as 3,000 sailors under his command.
"I joined the Navy to serve my country and to see the world," Fry said. "I was not disappointed. The structure of the Navy forced me to become organized and to plan ahead.
"It encouraged me to achieve what I thought was possibly unattainable."
The Navy may have opened Fry's eyes to what could be, but his drive made it possible.
"As I moved into civilian life, I was able to apply these principles and to delegate to others," he said.
His gratitude for the springboard his career in the Navy provided him is evident.
He is the past president of the National Navy Supply Corps Association, as well as serving with the ROA, the Navy League and the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association.
His career spanned 35 years as an active or reserve officer, including the promotion to admiral in 1987.
Fry's commitment to those with whom he served is evidenced by his words and actions. His post-active military career has been filled with a cavalcade of speaking engagements, dedications and volunteer efforts befitting his long-standing career of service.
Name: Vance Fry
Branch of military: U.S. Navy
Years of service: 1960-1995
"Our veterans are so important," Fry said, "and I hope we remember that and them."
He married his high school sweetheart — he and Charlynne were Mr. and Miss Central High for the class of 1954 and later were named Central Graduates of Distinction — and has been married for more than 60 years.
Last year the Frys were the lead fundraisers and offered a matching sum for donations to support a project that provided a "Piano Lab" for their alma mater that features 17 full-size, digital Kawai pianos connected to a system that allows students to practice with headphones independently or as a group.
Whether it's his hometown or his home country, students or sailors, Fry's willingness to help others has remained unchanged despite the ever-changing scenarios in his professional life.
"Charlynne and I returned [to Chattanooga], to live and to serve," he said.
He has been a Naval officer, an engineer, a business owner and went to law school at the University of Tennessee, which eventually led to Fry being chosen among 15,000 nominees in 2005 to be selected as the Tennessee Bar Association's "pro bono lawyer of the year."
"My service in the Navy opened my eyes to the plight of the ordinary sailor," he said. "This helped later as I practiced the law. I wanted to assist those who did not have the education nor the finances to help themselves.
"It is the mission of my wife and me to care for the less fortunate, and it is a privilege to do so."
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.
Veteran Salute will be published daily through Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Read about more Chattanooga-area veterans at timesfreepress.com/veterans/2021.