By Erika Webb
Megan Harvey, a student at Stetson University, had no idea how to organize a fundraiser. She only knew that her U.S. Marine boyfriend, Kyle Trenary, is coming home for Christmas and it looked as though his best friend, U.S. Navy Sailor Andrew Grosswald, would not ... once again.
The two Pine Ridge High School graduates have not seen each other since each joined the military two years ago.
Ms. Harvey, also a Pine Ridge graduate, said it will take at least $1,800 to bring Sailor Grosswald home.
So she talked to the folks at Ace Hardware and Pix Gas Station. Then she and a group of volunteers began to make posters advertising a series of carwashes to raise money for a plane ticket.
"It just seemed like the best way to make money in a decent amount of time," Ms. Harvey said.
The first carwash, at Ace Hardware on Sept. 14, was successful. There will be six more over the next two months.
"I think we might be able to pay for the whole ticket if they go as well as the first one," Ms. Harvey said.
Andrew Grosswald had the need to explore at a very early age. On more than one occasion the toddler climbed out his bedroom window scaring his parents, Christine and Randy Grosswald, half to death.
The couple has many "Andrew" stories that have been shared with friends and family throughout the years. They treasure them now more than ever since their Interior Communications Electrician Fireman son is half a world away.
He has to be a little more prudent when he goes a-wandering these days, because to clamber over the side of the USS George Washington CVN-73 would find him bobbing in the Pacific Ocean somewhere off the coast of Japan.
Back home in Deltona, Mr. and Mrs. Grosswald, along with their son's many friends and his girlfriend, simply want him home for the holidays. It's been three years since the family spent Christmas together.
ICFN Grosswald loves being in the Navy.
"Just like every job it has its ups and downs, mostly just being away from family and friends," he said in a telephone interview, "but like most jobs you give up time to make something of yourself and begin your life."
By the time he graduated from Pine Ridge in 2011, it was painfully evident that career potential in his hometown was virtually non-existent. The economy and the unemployment rate were abysmal.
Mrs. Grosswald, whose father worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, grew up in Germany. Her travels throughout Europe and the Middle East were extensive. The experience gave her a world view to share with her Deltona-raised but determined-to-see-the-world son.
Fishing and being in the outdoors were and are Sailor Grosswald's passions.
From the time he was a young boy he wanted to work as a game warden for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. But college is expensive.
His mom said he plans to reenlist because he's fulfilling goals along the way.
"He's so satisfied because of everything the Navy is offering him," Ms. Grosswald said. "Being a game warden is still his ultimate goal. This will afford him that opportunity, and many others."
She's proud of the fact her son's younger friends are following in his footsteps and joining the military.
"He's inspired them," Mrs. Grosswald said. "In doing this, he's been a leader. I always knew he'd be a leader."
His teachers knew it, too.
"I've run into several teachers and they were like, 'we always knew he'd be in some kind of uniform and not the bad kind,'" Mrs. Grosswald said, laughing. "He loves it because it's so regimented and he's constantly trying to earn more badges."
On a trip to Australia for a joint event between the U.S. Navy and the Australian Navy -- designed to maintain and bolster good relations -- Sailor Grosswald hit the R&R jackpot.
Mrs. Grosswald recalled the day her son sent her a message saying he got to go to the zoo, not just any zoo -- the Steve Irwin Zoo.
Sailor Grosswald was 10 when the Crocodile Hunter died.
"Andrew cried for a week," his mom said. "Steve Irwin was his idol."
On his third Pacific deployment, his thoughts on Syria venture toward concerned, but don't stray to worry. Like his mom, he's an optimist who focuses on the positive experiences he's been offered courtesy of the U.S. government.
"I've been to Japan, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Guam, Hong Kong China, Singapore and South Korea," he said. "My weekends in port consist of going out into Japan and exploring, shopping, partying with friends and hanging out to recuperate from the long week of work."
At sea he works a 12 on and 12 off shift.
"I take care of many things on the ship that are vital to ship's navigation and operability and enhancement to ship instruments and indicating circuits. We IC men maintain all communication within the ship," he said.
He takes pride in the fact that his job is meaningful to the Navy.
"Let's just say I am a very busy person underway," he added. "Most of the time, I like my job."
Dates and locations for the remaining carwashes are:
Pix Gas Station 2196 Howland Blvd., Deltona Oct. 5-6; Nov. 2-3
Ace Hardware 305 Fort Smith Blvd., Deltona, Oct. 19-20
Each will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Mrs. Grosswald hopes to recruit more volunteers, but overall she was happy with the way things went in September.
"The locals came out and supported it. Some of them, even if they had just gotten their car washed, still threw us donations, and thank you love bug season ... perfect timing," Mrs. Grosswald said, laughing.
Meanwhile she waits for the green light letting her know her only child is online.
"It's like waiting for a letter," Mrs. Grosswald said, "but social media has made the connection between you and your sailor or you and your soldier so much better than waiting on that letter."
Does the desert loom ominously?
"We talk about Middle East deployment all the time, but it's out of our control," she said. "Right now he's guarding the waters off China and Korea, but we never know, he never knows, what ships are gonna get pulled."
They all live it one day at a time on faith.
"Being away isn't the hard part though; it's being away for so long," Sailor Grosswald said. "It becomes a mental barrier and once you get used to it, it becomes easier but it's still on your mind."