Conover man prepares to deploy

First Class Petty Officer Thomas Brandt hasn't lived in Catawba County for long, but he knows its a place where he wants to live and work after his deployment.

Brandt, 30, lives in Conover, but will soon be deployed with the U.S. Navy. He doesn't know where he'll be, and he doesn't know what he'll be doing.

But he does know one thing: He's exactly where he should be.

"I wanted an adventure," said the native New Yorker, who moved to Catawba County in September. "I always wanted to do something really significant with my life."

For the last 10 years, Brandt has done just that. He will celebrate his 10th anniversary with the U.S. Navy about the same time he's deployed in April.

This isn't the first deployment for Brandt, who served in Iraq for about a year from 2007-08. He also worked on relief efforts of the deadly tsunami in 2005.

"I knew that it would change my life," he said of his military career, "but I knew it would change my life for the better."

As a young adult, Brandt knew he wanted to do something important with his life. He just didn't know what. He thought about President John F. Kennedy's famous inaugural address, where Kennedy asks citizens to consider what they can do for their country.

When Brandt joined the Navy, things fell into place.

Brandt, through his work in the military, joined volunteer organizations and became involved in Habitat for Humanity. He wanted to set an example for others about the importance of giving back to the community — whether it's through the military or another form of service work.

"They may never join the military, but they may aspire to do something great with their lives," he said.

Brandt is married to Sandra, and he has an 11-year-old son, Marcus Wood. He said his family understands that his deployment is part of his job, and they've accepted that.

"I'm sure there will be more (deployments) to come in the future," he said. "But that's what we do. That's my job. It's like getting up and going to work every day. To me, it's fluid."

Until his deployment, Brandt will enjoy spending time with friends and family. He held a party at Conover Tavern on Friday to say goodbye to his loved ones and enjoy their company.

Brandt doesn't know much about his deployment, only an approximate time for his departure. After his deployment, he wants to return to Catawba County and work in radio telecommunications.

Brandt, however, won't stop helping others and volunteering once he returns to Conover.

"My contribution is to give back what I believe are freedoms, but also to give back to the less fortunate," he said. "It actually stops when my heart stops beating."