PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – A Clearwater native following in the footsteps of his grandfathers shares his experience of Navy bootcamp.

“I was born and raised in Clearwater, went to safety Harbor for elementary and middle school, went to Eastlake high school,” said Officer Candidate Derrick Heezen with the United States Navy when he was asked to describe himself. 

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In a rare interview with an officer candidate in the U.S. military heading off to boot camp soon, 25-year-old Derrick Heezen reflects on his Clearwater roots.

“From there, went to the University of North Florida, I did two years of Naval ROTC there as well. I majored in mechanical engineering, works at Boeing for a bit,” he continued.

But what makes his story different from one like ours is that he’s looking to change the trajectory of his entire life based on his ancestry and his love of country.

“I have a really strong desire to serve my country. I wanted to be in a position of leadership,” he said.

Currently a C.E.C. Officer for the United States Navy, Officer Candidate Heezen is looking to graduate with his class at the end of February and be commissioned as an ensign where he would join the ranks of our Navy’s leadership.

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“Were very different when it comes to other parts do the Navy, you know, you have the aviators, the supply guys,” he said. “Both of my grandfathers were Marines and just listening to their stories growing up as a kid just really inspired me to want to serve and want to be like them, and also, the love of country and the love of the military.”

Over the course of the next thirteen weeks, he’ll be tested morally, mentally, and physically at officer candidate school in Rhode Island.

“Focus is on militarization discipline, a lot of PT, a lot of shouting, a lot of running so it’s very physically demanding,” Heezen said. “Naval history, engineering and weapons, sea-based navigation and then along with military drills so kind of wrapping up that order and discipline.”

REPORTER QUESTION: “When you were a young boy did you see yourself where you are today?”

“More so in a Marine Corp uniform as a small kid but uh… but definitely serving, yes. I saw myself, in some capacity, being in the military,” he told me. And he tells me is was his drive to become an effective leader for his country that helped him make that decision.

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“Service takes many forms. I think it’s important that we all help each other regardless of political, religious, or personal identity and we all come from different backgrounds,” he said. “I’m excited to get under the fleet and to lead sailors and to help the Navy become a better place, to make the world a better place as well.”