RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS)– Norman Vest retired from the U.S. Navy in June 2022, after 26 years of service.

He joined the Navy at age 17 and left his hometown of Beckley for Seattle, Washington, to serve aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

“I’ve done a total of 10 deployments, most in the Middle East, some in Africa, some in the Arctic, some working with other countries,” explained Vest, who was living back in Beckley in October 2022.

He moved home to be close to his children, and he has serious health concerns that he said are a result of his military service.

“I have blood clots in my lungs, a DVOT and a pulmonary embolism,” he said.

Vest said his service allowed him to take care of his family, and he got to see the world.

But Vests added he’d like the military to offer more proactive care for those still actively serving.

“It just seems like, you know how you’re paying off a car, and it starts to break down,” he explained. “Once they get everything out of you, they don’t’ really care very much. We got what we need, and you’re retiring, but we’ll do these surgeries and send you on your way.”

As Vest waits for potentially life-saving treatment, he has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. He says the government could do more to realize the strain senior leadership often faces.

“I think they do a pretty good job of recognition, but that doesn’t fix everything,” said Vest. “It doens’t fix everything. Awards doesn’t fix everything. Getting to the root of the cause of the problem, they seem to glance over that.”

He added that the military is quick to conduct investigations but said it’s slow to get help to active service members in need.

Vest has few mementos and photos displayed from his time in the Navy. And, he said, he doesn’t like when someone thanks him for his service.

“There was a lot of people I served with that didn’t make it out, and it feels kind of gross, or I don’t know what it is, just when somebody says thank you for your service,” he explained. “I know that their intentions are good…I don’t know how to get over it. One day I want to be grateful. I want to say, ‘thank you, that means a lot.’ But I can’t, right now.”

Yet, despite the toll his service has taken on his health, Vest says he does not regret his service.

“I don’t regret it,” he said. “I love my country, and, yeah, I would do it again.”