WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Phillip Andrews and his brother were raised as Catholic altar boys. They were also greatly influenced by their father, who told them one day, they would serve their country.

Growing up during the Vietnam era, the father of Phillip and his younger brother, Eric, told his boys they would grow up to serve their country. So, in 1977, at the age of 18, Phillip enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Two years later, his brother would follow.

“We wanted to defend our country. But instead of running through the jungle at night, we wanted to take our chances at swimming on a ship,” said Phillip.

After completing basic training, Phillip was sent to Orlando to learn about torpedoes.

“Because it was something electronical about learning about torpedoes, and the school that they sent me to, I was to assemble submarine torpedoes, and I enjoyed it,” he said.

Phillip specialized in assembling the Mark 14 torpedo. There’s one on display downtown at Veterans Memorial Park. 

Although Vietnam had ended, Phillip was assigned to a Naval Base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. 

“Not only Vietnam, but we were still in conflicts with other countries that’s over in that area. North Korea, and of course China, and Russia,” he explained.

Phillip is 6-foot-4 and had no interest in being stuck in a submarine. Fortunately, torpedo assemblers stay on land or at sea on ships. 

“There’s two types of torpedo men. Operators and technicians. Operators ride in submarines. I was a technician because I built torpedoes,” he said.

Phillip’s first ship was the U.S.S. Sperry. He built Mark 14 torpedoes on board the Sperry for two years. He reenlisted and chose to go back to school in the Philippines. 

“I went to learn about a new torpedo, the Mark 46 torpedo,” he said.

His next assignment was aboard the U.S.S. Kirk. It was stationed out of Japan and would be sent out on missions off the coasts of Africa and India for six months at a time. 

One of the missions he remembers most is spending three frozen weeks off the coast of Russia. The Kirk covered in ice. 

“Then I went and built more torpedoes in Hawaii. Worked on the Mark 46 in Hawaii,” said Phillip.

Phillip was stationed in Hawaii for four years before he boarded his last ship, the U.S.S. McKee. 

“And on this ship, we stationed out of San Diego, Port Loma, and we did very little sea time. When we did do it, it was we went up to Canada. We also supplied submarines that came there also,” he said.

At this point, Phillip was closing in on 20 years in the Navy. 

“My recruiter said, ‘What do you want to do now?’. I said, ‘I want to finish my career as a teacher.’ And what I did was I taught the Mark 46 torpedo. How to make it ready for airplanes and helicopters and, of course, shooting them out of tubes on ships,” said Phillip.

With his military service behind him, Phillip chose to reverse course. 

“After learning how to build weapons to destroy and kill, I directed my life now to trying to do what I can to save lives,” he said.

He worked at St. Joseph Hospital as a sterile processing tech in the surgery department. 

“And now I work at Surgicare of Wichita as a materials coordinator providing surgeons with the supplies they need to do their job,” said Phillip.

Phillip is very active at his church. 

His little brother, Eric, was a communications officer in the Navy and was serving as a Lieutenant Commander with the Navy SEALs when he passed away while on duty in 2005.

If you want to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Jason Lamb at jason.lamb@ksn.com.