“Service is the best way to start any life“ (Veteran profile)

John Alfeltis served as a signalman in the US Navy during the Vietnam War


Tyler Gibbs

“Going to sea is [truly] something.” – John Alfeltis

Recently, I got a chance to meet with John Alfeltis, a Navy veteran. He served for a total of 27 years and joined the Navy during the summer between his junior and senior years of high school.

He had known since his freshman year that he was going to be in the Navy, but a certain movie really motivated him to take action. This movie was Fighting Sullivans”, produced in 1944. Fighting Sullivans” was based on the real experiences of five brothers who joined the Navy together. Though this is a bit of a somber film, Alfeltis was so touched by it that he became sure, at that moment, that he was ready to join the Navy. And he didn’t regret that decision.

“My experience… was very positive,” Alfeltis said.

Alfeltis recalled his many positive experiences from his time serving. He talked about lifelong friendships that were formed, explaining that “when you serve with somebody, they become your friend for the rest of your life”.

He also talked about how he got to see the sea at its worst and at its best. “I have seen the ocean so vicious that there’s not a person on that ship that didn’t believe in God,” he explained. “I’ve also seen the sea so smooth that you couldn’t separate the horizon from the sea. It was just a sheet of glass.” 

As incredible as the whole Navy experience was, Alfeltis also informed us that there were many hardships along the way. He recalls the most difficult sacrifice being leaving his family behind.

“It’s hard to leave the family,” Alfeltis said. He and his wife had just gotten married before joining the Navy, and the time away was very hard. But Alfeltis adds how wonderful of a wife she was, even with the hardship of being apart for so long.

Alfeltis learned a lot while serving in the military. He had to master “getting along with people”, working successfully with them, and being able to “understand people”.

When Alfeltis left the military after 27 years of service, he became an associate pastor at a Southern Baptist Church and went into ministry. A Vietnamese church was sharing the building that Alfeltis attended for church at the time. One of the people that attended the Vietnamese church was a man who helped lead the attack on Pearl Harbor. As hard as it was, Alfeltis was able to find love for that man during his ministry time. “That was my heart, was to minister to the Vietnamese,” he said. He very positively remembers this experience.

Alfeltis is a member of many local veterans groups now. “I’m chaplain at the… Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1071. I’m… chaplain of the American Legion in Arvada, and they just asked me to be chaplain at the Fleet Reserves Association Branch 49.”

Alfeltis goes around and talks to many schools about his time in the military. He also participates in many activities that are related to veterans and service. He really appreciates when people thank him for his service and strongly advised others to thank veterans for all that they’ve done. “That means a lot,” he said.

When asked if he had any advice or suggestions for potential service members/interested students, Alfeltis strongly advised joining the military. “[Serving in the military] gives you such a foundation,” Alfeltis said. “Service is the best way to start any life.”

As the end of the interview drew near, Alfeltis quickly shared a poem. This poem was “I Am a Veteran” by Andrea Brett. You can hear Alfeltis himself read the poem here.

After that poem filled with so much heart, Alfeltis thanked the group and headed on his way. But I will never forget the stories and experiences he told.

Veterans and current service members are the reason we have as much freedom as we do.

So, thank you. We appreciate all of your service and sacrifice. We appreciate it more than we can explain.