When Jonathan Francis left his land-locked Kansas hometown to join the U.S. Navy, he had no idea he’d also fall in love with the ocean. Nine years later, Francis reaffirmed his oath of enlistment at a place with personal significance: Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.
On Nov. 17, Francis, 28, stood on the aquarium’s Tide Pool Plaza overlooking the Pacific Ocean and pledged to serve his country for six more years. Francis chose Birch Aquarium as the ceremony site because of his passion for the sea, particularly saltwater aquariums.
“Some people pick the 50-yard line at a football stadium,” Francis said about the reenlistment ceremony, typically performed at a place of special meaning for a serviceperson. “I picked the aquarium.”
The ceremony was conducted by U.S. Naval Lt. Timothy Householder and attended by 15 close family and friends. Afterward, the group enjoyed a docent-guided tour of the aquarium.
Francis is an active member of the San Diego Marine Aquarium Society, helping to share ocean knowledge and ocean-conservation practices with aquarium aficionados worldwide. He maintains a 180-gallon tank at home, and replenishes the tank with saltwater available at the end of Scripps Pier.
Francis also enjoys surfing, snorkeling, and sailing. In the Navy, he serves as a submarine electronics technician, overseeing maintenance and repair of submarine navigation, communication, and computer equipment.
Born in Osawatomie, Kan. (population: 4,700), Francis joined the U.S. Navy shortly after high school on Nov. 17, 1999. His first command was the Los Angeles class submarine, USS Portsmouth, out of San Diego. On his second tour in 2004, Francis served with the Deep Submergence Unit, also out of San Diego. This command allowed him to explore the depths of the ocean, where he discovered amazing sea life that most people only get to see on television.
Francis has been married for four years to wife, Frances, who is four months pregnant with their first child. They live in Point Loma.
-- Jessica Z. Crawford