Marvin C. Moye spent nearly 21 years in the U.S. Navy. His career was dedicated to anti-submarine warfare and developing as a leader. Now, as a FUSION Décor Boutique volunteer in Federal Way, those leadership qualities shine brightly with each person he meets.
An 18-year-old Moye from Alabama joined the Navy in 1971, following the path his father once took joining the military.
“My father was in the Navy in World War II,” he said. “So I decided I’d go ahead and carry on the tradition of being a Navy family.”
He went to boot camp in Orlando, Florida, then training at “A School” to be an Aviation Electrician’s Mate (AE), a role which is responsible for maintaining, testing and repairing electrical and electronic systems of aircrafts. Later, he was stationed at the former Quonset Point Air National Guard Station in Rhode Island, a site that was deactivated in 1974.
Shortly after, he deployed on a North Atlantic cruise on the USS Intrepid, one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers and is now a museum in New York City. As an airman in the Navy, Moye worked mainly in anti-submarine warfare while expanding his knowledge working on, or learning about, aircrafts that track submarines.
Moye worked hard to advance through the ranks, even when it meant months apart from loved ones or less-than-ideal jobs his first few years in the military.
After another deployment and shifting from propeller aircraft work to working on jet engines, Moye went to “B School” to focus on electronics.
“It wasn’t necessarily about systems, it was about understanding electronics,” he said. “And how things worked inside the black boxes, hypothetically.”
One of his proudest moments from his time in the service was advancing from enlisted to a Commissioned Officer rank. When he left the military in 1992, he earned the rank of W2, a Chief Warrant Officer.
“It gave me more opportunities to work with the sailors. … I was always a people-type person,” he said. In addition, Moye served as a drug and alcohol counselor after witnessing members of his own squadron battle with substance issues. “I thought, ‘maybe there’s something I can do.’”
He was also a human/civil rights counselor, teaching a course about racism and moderating conversations between people to resolve racial issues aboard the ship.
At the time in the 1980s, racial tensions were high. Moye’s experience was also vastly different from that of his father, Julius Caesar Moye, who served decades before him.
As a person of color in the Navy at the time, he said, his father was often forced to care for the white officers’ quarters and serve white officers their food, among other subservient duties.
Historian Matthew Delmont is the author of “Half American,” a new book that looks into the treatment of Black servicemen during World War II. In a Nov. 8 interview with NPR, Delmont said: “Among all the branches, the treatment of Black men in the Navy was among the worst.”
Black servicemen “were assigned to these roles as attendants, where they essentially waited on and served white officers within the culture of the Navy,” Delmont told NPR. “These were seen as extraordinarily subservient roles, and that’s how the mess attendants were typically treated aboard ships.”
Moye’s personal stories about his father echo this history.
“He didn’t get to have the same experience I had,” Moye said of his father, who was an E2 during the war. As time passed, his father got to witness Moye advance in the ranks and eventually to the officer role. “I wanted to work, to strive hard for him … he was proud of me.”
His additional counselor roles proved his leadership efforts, but also made him keenly aware of what a true leader is, often making note of qualities he respected in the leaders he liked.
“One thing I learned coming up through the ranks is how to be a good leader — and things not to do as a leader,” he said.
Retirement in the PNW
Eighteen years into his career, he was stationed aboard the USS Carl Vinson in California. The ship was stationed in Bremerton and he was deployed to the Persian Gulf when the Gulf War broke out. Moye retired from the Navy once the ship returned to the United States.
He was able to retire in the Pacific Northwest, a place he had curiously admired since childhood.
“I never thought I would have such a career, but it was fascinating … it’s something I never thought of,” he said, reflecting on his time in the Navy. “What little I knew about aircrafts could fill a thimble. That’s how little I knew about aircrafts. When the opportunity came to work on them, it was just a shot in the dark.”
Moye met his late wife, Sarah, in the Navy. She was an unrestricted line officer. The two were married for 27 years and have three children together.
“I was enlisted, she was an officer. You’re not supposed to have fraternization … but you know, who controls the heart strings?” he said with a smile.
After she retired from the Navy, Sarah was a flight instructor and then worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Upon his retirement, Moye also joined the FAA in Renton, working alongside his wife.
Working with the FAA, they met Mike Kelly — a fellow Navy veteran and FUSION volunteer who is an excellent chef with a generous heart, Moye said. When the Moye family moved to the Renton area, Kelly invited them over for Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition that held up for 10 years.
In the FAA, Moye was an Aviation Safety inspector in Avionics; Kelly worked the same title, but in the Operations division. Moye spent 20 years with the FAA before retiring in 2015.
Even today, Moye spends frequent dinners and Sundays watching football or favorite TV shows with Kelly, a friendship-turned-family built over 32 years. Kelly is also the person who introduced Moye to FUSION in Federal Way.
Now, the pair is known around the nonprofit as the “Boutique Boys” — the muscles and easy jokesters around the FUSION boutique. They move furniture around the showroom, offload the furniture trucks, tinker with or fix pieces as needed, and provide many smiles and laughs.
Moye’s one-year volunteer anniversary with FUSION is January 2023.
“We just help wherever is needed,” he said. “This is a good place to be.”
Moye isn’t afraid to show he cares deeply, or wear his emotions on his sleeve. He jokes freely and tears up when discussing sensitive topics, especially when asked what Veterans Day means to him.
“I think about a lot of soldiers that didn’t make it,” he said, voice breaking and dabbing his eyes with a napkin.
The military is not without sacrifice — personally, psychologically and physically. But, Moye says: “That’s the job you signed up for, that’s the job you do.”