Veterans Day in the U.S. is observed on the anniversary of the end of World War I. It is a time to remember, celebrate and honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Reflecting on Veterans Day, Jesse Ortega, Ketchum senior tech support specialist, and U.S. Navy petty officer second class, recalls the reverence and meaning this day brings in his own life.
Why did you want to join the military?
I’ve always had “the calling” with a sense of duty to thank this country that has afforded my family and friends the opportunity to live freely and pursue whatever dream they set their minds to. I really wanted to join the Navy after graduating college, but out of respect for my mother’s wishes, I pursued a career in technology instead.
Fast-forward to 2018 at a New Year’s Eve party where I had a long conversation with a couple of Marine veterans who reminisced on their times serving abroad and told me that if they could; they would do it all over again. We agreed that every person has their own experience, whether good or bad, and the only way for me to know was to experience it for myself, so I decided I should try applying after speaking with my wife, Elaine Ortega, and supervisor, Bob Wooley. They were both very supportive, and I submitted my application to enlist in the Navy in 2019. I headed to boot camp in September of that year. Even when asked by my boot camp instructors, “Why are you here, recruit?”, I simply replied, “Because I want to be, Sir!”
Do you have role models in the military?
I look up to all veterans who have served before me, and I appreciate the time they sacrificed to make our country that much safer. Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to join Alameda’s Navy Reserve Center’s funeral honors team where I deeply appreciate being able to honor a fellow sailor each time I volunteer.
My family has a lineage of serving in several branches of the armed forces as well. I had an uncle, Armando Cordoba, who served during the Vietnam War and recently passed in 2020 from complications of being exposed to agent orange many years ago. My father, Raul Ortega Sr., was in the U.S. Army, my older brother, Raul Ortega Jr., was in the U.S. Air Force as a Reservist and my twin, Jason Ortega, was in the Civil Air Patrol during high school. I believe all our small parts help ensure our country’s way of life.
I appreciate how they all inspire me to advance through my Navy career and help me motivate others in my Unit to be better.
What have you gained from your experience at Ketchum that you use in your role in the Navy? Does that work in the other direction, too?
Communication is key! If you need a team to work toward a common goal, then you need to set expectations and even do a little handholding so that each team member is aware of their duty and does exactly what they are required to do. Thanks to Suzanne Massie, an American scholar who made this phrase internationally known, but I constantly use: “Trust, but verify.” You’re not necessarily offending the person who worked on whatever it is you asked them to do, but sometimes you just need to see it for yourself.
A hearty thank you to all veterans and active service military members for their service goes a long way. Here are ways you can learn more about their dedication to service or take “thank you” a step further this Veterans Day.