By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
I’m ashamed to admit that I never actually met retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Richard Williams; the two of us only ever communicated by email correspondence and telephone calls here and there. I have few regrets in this business, and this is one of them.
Consider first that as the longtime instructor of the San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy Naval Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Chief Williams, as he was affectionately referred to by many, was adamant in his pursuit to highlight the cadets. Whether it was military installations, food drives or city-wide beautification efforts, he made sure the community was aware of all the good the NJROTC was doing via the San Benito News. Such contributions and support are worthy of praise, and yet any approbation afforded to Chief Williams does the man little justice.
Knowing as much despite never personally meeting him is a testament to his character; unfortunately, my memories of Chief Williams are, as a result, not many, nor do they by any means equal the heartfelt sentiments shared by those who knew him better. Still, I can attest to the fact that Chief Williams always knew how to lift my spirits. In each email or telephone conversation, the mere pleasantries that were exchanged between us became enough to warrant my appreciation and respect of the NJROTC instructor who became so much more to this community. But it was the time he took to inspire me that struck a deeper chord.
Last year, Chief Williams sent me a card in response to my column, “Pedaling Past My Biggest Challenge Yet.” Published in the Sept. 23, 2012 weekend edition of the News, the piece focused on my personal struggle to shed the excessive amount of weight I had gained over the years. At that time, I was putting my body through a tremendous amount of stress by engaging in a 90-minute workout seven days a week, activity coupled with a strict diet that excluded nearly all dairies, starchy foods and sugars as well as incorporating a daily intake of water—specifically about eight cups a day.
In short, I was in full beast mode and shedding pounds at what felt like an unusually rapid pace. The only problem is that I sometimes considered giving up. Understand that people can be cruel in their judgments, and consider further that in order to fit a rigorous exercise routine in my already-overloaded work schedule, it meant waking at 5 a.m. And although I enjoyed being an early bird—there’s something about the morning air and still-dark sky that’s intoxicating—lack of sleep was quickly becoming an issue.
Then I received the card from Chief Williams. The message inscribed read, “God sees… He cares… He hears… He answers. …Praying and trusting with you.” The chief’s personal message included quotes from Babe Ruth, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up,” and Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up,” before signing the card with the following: “Mr. Rodriguez, you can do this!!! God bless you and yours.”
I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. Sometime later, I thought of the chief’s card when, after technical difficulties led to a stressful night at the office, I found myself returning home from work on Friday at 8 a.m. Saturday. I had just put in a 24-hour shift, yet finding the strength to complete a grueling hour-and-a-half workout came easy thanks to the support of folks like Chief Williams.
By November, I had lost over 80 pounds. That’s not nearly enough to achieve my goal, but it was a great start. I’ve since been inconsistent with my lifestyle change due to a number of issues, including undergoing surgery at one point.
I now consider those issues, regardless of their severity, little more than excuses. So on Saturday, I started from scratch with the strict diet and the intense exercises, and it feels as though I never stopped. Take into consideration that it was Chief Williams who helped inspire me all over again. It’s amazing how, even in death, he can still move me.
God bless you, Chief Williams. I ain’t ever giving up.