Story by PO1 Chris Williamson on 04/04/2019By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Williamson
ST. LOUIS -- Many people decide to enlist in the Navy for different reasons. Some join for the patriotism. Some join to develop a structured and disciplined life. And some join for the many benefits the Navy can provide. For Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Jerrod Ragsdale, joining was for a deeper and more personal reason.
He enlisted for his father.
"I decided to follow in my dad's footsteps," said Ragsdale. "In fact, my family has a long history of military service that goes back for decades. My grandfather served in World War II and my father served in the Vietnam War."
During the Vietnam War, Ragsdale's father, Jerry, was a radioman in the Navy. But he never talked much about his time in Vietnam.
"My dad didn't tell me any sea stories' or about his experiences during that timeframe," said Ragsdale. "He kept to himself most of the time. So growing up, the thought of joining the Navy wasn't an option I even considered."
But that would all change. On April 29, 2008, Ragsdale received terrible news. His father had passed away as a result of an automobile accident.
"At the time, I was working at Blockbuster," said Ragsdale. "A state trooper walked into my store and asked if we could talk privately. I knew then that it was something serious."
After receiving the news, Ragsdale was heartbroken. He decided that day he would do something that would make his father proud of him.
And so, Ragsdale enlisted in the Navy.
After serving tours aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), at a submarine squadron, and at Navy Operational Support Center St. Louis, Ragsdale became a recruiter and was assigned to Navy Recruiting District (NRD) St. Louis.
"I became a recruiter because I love a good challenge," said Ragsdale. "It is exactly the opportunity I need in order to excel in my Navy career."
Ragsdale has been recruiting for seven months out of Navy Recruiting Station Festus, Missouri. He chose to recruit out of this station because it's close to his hometown of Desloge, Missouri, and also because he wants to support the local area and its youth.
"I love to help people," said Ragsdale. "I am always there when someone calls. So being able to help change the lives of so many young men and women is a humbling and rewarding experience in itself. Knowing I have the ability and tools as a recruiter to help people realize their potential is a very rewarding feeling."
In only a few months after reporting to NRD St. Louis, Ragsdale has been one of the top 10 recruiters in the district three times, the number one recruiter of in November 2018, and has written twelve contracts. Ragsdale has received several awards and accolades for his superior performance, and he also received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for responding to a multiple-vehicle accident this past winter.
"I was sitting in my living room watching television when I noticed there was a car in the snow-covered ditch," said Ragsdale. "A few seconds later, I saw another car hit the vehicle that was in the ditch."
Ragsdale immediately took action. He threw on his coat and boots and jumped into his truck. As he was getting ready to go help, a police officer was driving up the road to assist with the disabled vehicles. However, since the roads were extremely icy, the officer's vehicle slid sideways and nearly ended up in the ditch as well.
"I knew I had to help them all out because help wouldn't be arriving for quite a while," said Ragsdale.
Park Hills Police Department Patrolman James Nicholson, the officer who responded to the scene, gave this report about the situation and how Ragsdale assisted everyone there:
"On November 14, 2018, I was working evening shift for Park Hills Police Department when the area was struck by a snow storm, and there were a number of traffic accidents due to the road conditions. I was called to an area on West Main Street where there was an accident involving several vehicles. This accident was on a blind corner on the crest of a hill. The roadway was so slick that when I stopped my patrol vehicle, it slid sideways, almost going into the ditch. Ragsdale did not hesitate and immediately assisted. He assisted with directing traffic, allowed people to sit in his truck to stay warm while their vehicles were being pulled from the ditch, and helped me when everything else was done to get my patrol vehicle mobile again."
"Ragsdale could have done nothing, but he elected to stop and assist. This shows the dedication to the community that Ragsdale has. It is my opinion that Ragsdale showed great qualities as a member of the United States Navy," said Nicholson.
Although Ragsdale has had many great accomplishments during his tenure, he still strives for excellence. With his eyes on the prize, he hopes he'll advance to the paygrade of petty officer first class and eventually run a recruiting station as a leading petty officer.
"I want to continue to excel," said Ragsdale. "I want to make sure I do everything in my power so I can be setup for future success. I want to be as qualified as possible and surpass my father when he was in the Navy."
Ragsdale plans on serving in the Navy for as long as he can. Something he believes would make his father extremely proud.
NRD St. Louis' area of responsibility covers more than 200,000 square miles, encompassing Missouri, Kansas, central and southern Illinois, and a portion of Kentucky. More than 350 officers, enlisted personnel and civilian staff operate 32 recruiting stations, two Navy Officer Recruiting Stations and the headquarters in St. Louis. Additionally, two Military Entrance Processing Stations, one at the headquarters in St. Louis and one in Kansas City, Missouri, handle applicants' processing, classification and physical examinations.
For more news from Navy Recruiting District St. Louis, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrdsl/.
Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 18 Navy Recruiting Districts and eight Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,300 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America's Navy.