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Capt. Crozier’s parents thank the village that helped to raise their son

USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Commanding Officer Capt. Brett Crozier gives his departing remarks during the Blue Ridge change of command ceremony held at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka. Blue Ridge is the oldest operational ship in the Navy, and as 7th Fleet command ship, is responsible for patrolling and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific Region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam K. Thomas/RELEASED)

Were you the parents of the career military officer at the eye of the maelstrom that on Tuesday brought the resignation of the acting U.S. Secretary of the Navy, you’d probably be doing what Santa Rosa’s Bob and Gina Crozier are doing:

Watching, praying and guarding against fanning the rampant flames by keeping their thoughts discreetly to themselves.

There is one thing that Gina, a child and family therapist, and Bob, a retired partner in a cooling-tower business, do want to say.

They’d like thank Santa Rosa for all it did to help shape their son.

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BRETT IS THE MAN he is, Gina told me in a text, “because of the community that raised him.”

He was born in Las Vegas in 1970, when his dad was in the Air Force. The growing family came to Santa Rosa four years later.

As a kid, Brett played club soccer in Rincon Valley, he delivered The Press Democrat while it was still an afternoon paper with youth carriers and he worked at Howarth Park for the city recreation and parks department.

“His family and huge extended family for sure loved and raised him,” texted his mom, “but so did all the friends and families, his churches where moral values were reinforced.

“In his local schools, he learned academics and strong values from his teachers and principals. In the local sports programs, he was taught good sportsmanship values. His local Press Democrat taught him early about hard work and reliability.

“The SR recreation department, where he worked later, helped him to develop leadership skills. As a lifeguard at the boat docks, he had to always be aware of the responsibility and safety of others.”

BRETT CROZIER WAS 16 and a sophomore at Santa Rosa High when, as I’ve mentioned before, he went to see a movie that set his life on a steep and challenging trajectory.

In “Top Gun,” he watched Tom Cruise do things only a select and driven few will ever do as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a carrier-based U.S. Navy pilot of an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.

“I swear, that’s what inspired him,” Gina Crozier told me last fall, when the nearly 5,000-member crew of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt welcomed her son aboard as its new captain.

A BUDDY SINCE before high school, Michael Carlson, was eager on Tuesday to say something about Brett Crozier.

“What I remember most,” said the fellow SRHS alum, now an executive and general counsel of Napa Valley’s Wagner Family of Wine “was his intent and desire to go to the Naval Academy and become a pilot.”

In addition to young Crozier’s focused determination to become a naval aviator, “to do something bigger, bigger than himself,” Carlson recalls some of his leading qualities: “He was honest, loyal, smart, outgoing, but, at the same time, probably, a bit reserved.”

Carlson’s wife, Heather Staples, was in the same high school graduating class and went to a Panthers dance with Crozier.

“What comes to my mind,” she said, “is he was exceedingly well-liked and just a kind person. Brett was definitely the nice guy.”

Her husband said Crozier has stayed in contact with a group of graduates of the Class of ‘88

“There are a number of us who’ve always admired what he’s done,” Carlson said. “It was a surprise to nobody that he did what he did by putting his crew ahead of himself and his career.”

AMERICA NOW DEBATES the extraordinary letter Capt. Crozier wrote and distributed as COVID-19 spread through the carrier nicknamed “TR” and “Big Stick,” and the fallout of the response by Thomas Modly that led to him to step down as acting Secretary of the Navy.

In Santa Rosa, Gina Crozier feels her heart swell as she takes in the praise and defense of her son.

“When I see the accolades of others,” she texted, “I truly believe the words, ‘It takes a village.’”

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© 2020 The Press Democrat