Three more years

Published 9:34 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

In the small lobby of the Center for Health and Diabetes Education, Ron Young stood in front of an American flag draped over the center’s check-in window.

On the counter lay a few folders holding the necessary paperwork for re-enlistment in the Navy.

It was Young’s paperwork.

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In a matter of minutes, Young would be re-enlisting for three more years, after already serving 23 years in the service.

It was only fitting that Young’s re-enlistment ceremony would take place in the Saratoga Street center, because it was the reason he was re-enlisting in the first place.

Young’s wife, Barbara, is a nurse practitioner who founded and runs the center. The majority of Barbara’s patients do not have health insurance, and Barbara works the center without getting a real income.

After 23 years in the Navy, Ron was set to retire, but that would leave the young family without a breadwinner. Barbara would have to leave the center to get a “real, paying nurse practitioner” job, which would mean shutting down the center.

“If he retired, this practice would have to close,” Barbara said. “If it closed, there would be a lot of people without any healthcare at all.”

Barbara said the Western Tidewater Free Clinic and Main Street Physicians, which are also free health care providers, can have month-long waits, and still some patients cannot be provided with costlier medicines and education tools necessary.

“We can help them do that,” she said.

Seeing no other alternative, Ron volunteered to re-enlist to keep his wife’s practice and service alive. He said he did not see it as a sacrifice, but what needed to be done.

“I just saw it as something I’d like to do,” Ron said.

On Friday morning, the Youngs, along with their son Jordan, a fourth-grader at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, held a re-enlistment ceremony and celebration in the very center saved by Ron’s duty.

“If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be here anymore,” Barbara said. “I know I feel that way, and I know my patients feel that way. We’re all very proud of him.”

Young will continue in his current assignment as the leading Chief Petty Officer for the Training Support Center for Hampton Roads in the N6 department. Formerly, he was on the USS Enterprise.

Commander Gary Morris, a combat systems officer on the USS Enterprise, oversaw the proceedings during Friday’s ceremony.