Naval officer returned home for daughter

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” said Tony Craven.

The 46-year-old Victoria native was not referencing his 20 years serving in the Navy, nor was he speaking about his current position working in the Facilities Management Office at Fort Pickett in Blackstone.

Rather, the job he lists as his favorite is being a single father. His daughter, Peyton Gayle Craven, is an eighth- grader at Lunenburg Middle School.

“I have a feeling that she’s going to be keeping me on my toes for the next six or seven years,” Craven said about his 13-year-old. “That’s OK, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Though Craven was born in Victoria, his job in the Navy sent him away from home for many years.

“I was an East Coast sailor, never West Coast.” However, Craven said, “I’ve been to so many countries — oh, my goodness — I’ve seen so many wonderous things.”

Early in his naval career, which began in 1989, Craven worked as an aviation anti-submarine warfare technician. “Basically I was an electronic technician who worked on equipment that was used to hunt submarines,” he explained.

From there, he received training and held quite a few additional positions. While aboard the USS America, Craven served as a command information center (CIC) watch officer. He explained his job was to help navigate the ship, particularly if there was fog and inclement weather.

Following that, he worked a few other positions, including working for a short time as a recruiter in Richmond, and ultimately became a anti-submarine tactical air controller (ASTAC). “Not only did I get to maneuver ships, but now they wanted me to maneuver aircraft too,” he explained.

From ASTAC school he moved to Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., where he met and married Peyton’s mom and where Peyton was born.

“As things would turn out she left, so I’ve been raising Peyton pretty much by myself,” he said. “Because I was a single parent, I was doing shore commands after that because I didn’t want to leave her.”

It was for this very same reason that when he was offered a promotion and advancement in 2009. He turned it down because he wasn’t granted an accompanied tour.

On the day he made his decision to retire, he had been in the Navy for 20 years and 26 days, just days long enough to be eligible for retirement.

“I have no ill will to the Navy, but it came down to I had to choose between my daughter and the Navy,” Craven said. “I walked through the line for retirement ceremony holding my daughter’s hand with my left hand and saluting with my right one,” he recalled.

“I could have gone up there and said I want to retire in Honolulu … For one time you can pick anywhere in the world you want to go,” he explained. “My family’s here, my family’s always been here. That’s where I wanted to come back to. This is my hometown. This is where I’m from.”

He and Peyton have been in Victoria ever since.

“I enjoyed being retired for a few months, and then I found out that I couldn’t stay retired because I’m not an idle person. I have to have something to do. I couldn’t stand just sitting around the house.”

“By the time most people retire, I will retire twice, which is good because my daughter’s got plans,” Craven admitted. Since 2009 Craven has been working as a state employee, most recently in his position at Fort Pickett for which he recently accepted an award for renewable resources.

When not working, Craven can be found with Peyton, who he calls his “biggest blessing, by far.”