My Vegan Deployment

By Nicole Hadden, Guest Contributor

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A popular question from an omnivore, “Is being a vegan hard?” Easy answer from a seasoned vegan, “Of course not.” We say this because abstaining from animal products is not a matter of will, it’s a choice we’ve made at some point and has become a way of life. We can peruse most menus and find something to eat, we’ve attended many Thanksgivings with ease, and have endured the endless stream of questions about protein intake.

I credit the ease of my vegan lifestyle to experience, but mostly to the fact that I live in an area where vegan-friendly products are readily available. However, all of that changed when I was sent on a six-month deployment on the USS Carl Vinson to the Korea Operating Area. Aboard the ship were 6,000 individuals living in cramped, dirty, uncomfortable conditions. I was told from the very beginning that I would have to give up my vegan diet because the food on the boat barely nourishes an omnivore, let alone a vegan.

I met many individuals aboard who said they had to give up veganism because it was impossible to do so on a ship away from a kitchen, family, and any semblances of familiarity. Therefore, I am sharing what I did, learned, and what I recommend for other Navy officers who want to continue—or begin—a plant-based lifestyle in this type of restricted environment.

The Beginning

I have been conscious of my health for as long as I can remember. Exercise and eating healthy are a part of my everyday routine. I had a nutritional enlightenment over 10 years ago when I read The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD. It basically told me what I had suspected for some time—that plant-based diets support optimal health and vitality. I was lucky enough to transition in Southern California where you can really let your vegan light shine! Not only does this area have plenty of vegan-friendly restaurants and stores, but you can easily find people who encourage the lifestyle.

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The Navy

Fast forward to 2015 and all that changed when I joined the Navy. It was a big transition not only because of my diet, but also because I was so used to having total control over my life—now the Navy was in charge. It’s estimated that about 1 to 2% of the U.S. population are practicing vegans. And considering there are only about 2% of U.S. citizens serving in the military, it is not hard to imagine that the Navy doesn’t see many vegans cross their path.

I didn’t let that stifle me though. I love eating plant-based, and I never found anything that made me feel so good in so many ways. I feel healthy, and I get to help the environment and animals—wins all around! Military or not, I was committed to maintaining this lifestyle.

To continue reading Nicole’s story, click here.