Jacob Rideout, 28, who served in the U.S. Navy, says the experience helped guide him toward a career in public service.  Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Jacob Rideout knew he wanted to join the military long before he set foot in a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting center as a 19-year-old new high school graduate.

In Rideout’s New Hampshire family, serving in the military is seen as a rite of passage. Many of his older cousins had served and he grew up watching war movies with his grandfather, who was drafted during the Korean War.

With his father mostly out of the picture, his grandfather, cousins and the characters he saw fighting for their country in those war movies became his main male role models. Rideout, who is now 28, saw joining the military as a way to give back to his country while also finding direction and purpose in his life.

He says he found what he was looking for in the U.S. Navy.

He fulfilled what he saw as a duty to serve his country in three submarine deployments in the North Atlantic.

He also credits his time in the Navy with guiding him toward a career in public service.


After his service, Rideout moved back to New Hampshire. Soon after, he met the woman who would become his wife. She was living in Maine and he moved over the state line to be closer to her. Today the two of them live in Richmond with their 6-month-old-son. Rideout is a firefighter in Scarborough and is studying emergency medical services and fire sciences at Southern Maine Community College.

Rideout says the military taught him about himself and about the world. He met people with a wide range of viewpoints and backgrounds and had the time and space to see things from other perspectives and build relationships with those who thought differently, something that is rare in our politicized society.

He grew up in Deerfield, N.H., a town of  around 4,900 people that is 97% white. Before joining the military, he hadn’t been exposed to a wide range of viewpoints, people of different races or different cultures or diverse political and religious beliefs.

But when he stepped off the plane from New Hampshire to begin Navy boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, he met people from all over the country and other parts of the world, some of whom were serving in the military to try to get U.S. citizenship or improve their English.

“The military to me is a little bit like how people describe New York City,” said Rideout. “It’s a melting pot. I met people of all different races, sexual orientations, cultures and political and religious ideologies. I’ve met people that come from so many different nationalities, I probably couldn’t count them.”

On submarines, Rideout spent months at a time confined with about 150 others in a 400-foot-long boat, 500 feet below the surface of the ocean.


It felt a little bit like being in a big family, he said. People picked on each other and sometimes bickered, but at the end of the day everyone worked together in support of one another.

“In the Navy, we’re taught that we all have to figure out a way to get along,” said Rideout, “Being in such a small space for such a long period of time, you can’t make a big deal out of everything or ignore people. You have to work together and maintain connections even if you disagree about certain things.”

He uses those skills in civilian life.

“I’m conservative, but I try to take in everyone’s perspective,” he said. “The military helped me with that. It made me aware of all the different experiences and viewpoints out there.”

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