For the past nine months, Nathan Sholund and Jared Griswold haven't seen much of each other.
It's the longest the two have been apart for about 15 years.
Sholund and Griswold, both 23, had been nearly inseparable since they met at church camp about 15 years ago. During that time, they grew up, graduated from Mustang High School in 2008 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
While in the Navy, the two served their entire tours together, ending up in the same boot camp, all the same schools and working side by side on the flight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship.
Though they said they're not allowed to discuss much about their time in the Navy, Sholund and Griswold were involved in conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2010, they participated in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, more commonly called RIMPAC. The biennial event is the world's largest multinational maritime exercise. In 2010, it included personnel from 14 nations, including Chile, Colombia, France and South Korea.
Their reasons for joining the Navy were similar. Griswold said he had ideas about seeing the world while serving his country. Sholund said he enlisted out of a sense of duty to his country.
“It's something I can always be proud of,” Sholund said. “I think every American has some type of obligation.”
Since they left the Navy, though, the two haven't been as close — geographically speaking, at least. Sholund is attending Indiana Bible College in Indianapolis. He's back in Oklahoma City for the summer, doing land surveying. After college, he'd like to go to work in law enforcement, ideally for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
“Being in the military gave me that ‘protect-and-serve' mentality,” Sholund said.
Griswold is in Metro Technology Centers' aviation program. He plans to join Sholund at Indiana Bible College in August. After college, he hopes to be a bush pilot. He isn't sure where — maybe Alaska, he said.
Both said with a laugh that it's been strange being apart for the past nine months. For two high school friends to enlist in the Navy and spend their entire tours working side by side is relatively uncommon, they agreed — but both said they wouldn't have it any other way.
“I couldn't shake him,” Griswold said.