Vice-Admiral returns home to Greenville

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2006

When Lewis Crenshaw Jr. left his home town of Greenville, gas was running 20 cents a gallon and the Beatles were all still alive and in their prime.

A lot has changed in 36 years.

This small-town guy &#8220who couldn't swim, was afraid of heights, and claustrophobic, too,” never dreamed he would travel all over the world, spend time in a sub, land planes on an aircraft carrier and ultimately end up a three-star vice admiral in the U.S. Navy.

Vice Admiral Crenshaw, who is the deputy chief of naval operations, spoke to an attentive audience of students, faculty, family and friends at Fort Dale Academy on Monday morning.

Crenshaw shared details of his experiences as a naval officer, while encouraging students to always be open to new challenges in life.

The vice admiral, who flew combat sorties in Libya in 1986 and as part of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, said options were always available to pilots through a safety escape plan, and the same is true in life.

&#8220In life, don't limit yourself. You need to leave yourself with many options…don't get into a rut.”

Crenshaw encouraged the students to take advantage of the many opportunities presented to them.

&#8220At the Naval Academy, I had a chance to spend three months underwater on a sub…we never surfaced once. I didn't like it,” he said.

&#8220Then, I got a chance to be one of the surface guys shooting missiles – and I didn't like that. But these were all great learning experiences – I kept my options open. And you can do that, too, on the courses you take, the books you read – in many ways.”

Crenshaw also encouraged those assembled to never be satisfied with the status quo in life.

&#8220Know there is always room for improvement. Strive to do better and learn from your mistakes.”

The vice admiral, who has earned numerous awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and others during his long career, said he had also learned &#8220never to forget where you come from.”

&#8220As you rise in life, with other people working under you and new responsibilities – never forget what it was like when you were in their shoes,” Crenshaw said.

In a time when many young men were being drafted into the military, Crenshaw said he chose to pursue a naval career &#8220because it sounded good to me…I would get to travel the world, eat hot food – and they would actually pay me to do it.”

The vice admiral said he continued to carry with him the values instilled during his childhood in the Camellia City.

&#8220Those values you learn at home and here at FDA will go on with you. Stick to them,” Crenshaw said.

&#8220Don't be afraid to stand up for your beliefs, even if it makes you the lone voice in the crowd.”

Crenshaw also conducted a lively Q & A session with students and faculty members, sharing such insider details as naval budget costs, the thrills and chills of landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier and meeting the president while dining with the queen of England during his time in London.

While he's had a chance to visit many exotic locales, ”Greenville is a place I love to come back to,” Crenshaw said.