As a uniform wearer, there are certain things Fleet Master Chief April Beldo says she can’t do, out of respect for the United States.  The Navy woman will not sit down during the national anthem and she will not disrespect the Commander in Chief. “That respect thing, it goes a long way . . .” Beldo, who is retiring from the Navy in January after nearly 33 years of service, told the AFRO.

April Beldo received special recognition for her service in the U.S. Navy from D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. (Photo by Lenore Adkins)

April Beldo received special recognition for her service in the U.S. Navy from D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. (Photo by Lenore Adkins)

Beldo spoke after addressing Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Northwest D.C., where she was honored during its inaugural Veterans Day service. The church tapped Beldo to deliver the keynote address.

Beldo, 52, was born in California and joined the Navy right out of high school – she joined the church in 2013. The decorated sailor served at sea during various campaigns, including the Iraq War and Desert Storm. She went on to become the first Black female master chief of an aircraft carrier, the first female command master chief of recruiting training command, and the first female and Black force master chief for naval education and training command.

“We don’t see us a lot in positions of high ranking and then we in high ranking don’t get the time to let other folks see us,” Beldo said in explaining why she accepted the invitation to speak at the church. “This is what right looks like and it’s not always about the negativity that’s on TV that’s on whatever social media. There’s some good stuff going on.”

When she joined the Navy in 1983, Beldo’s initial goal was to stay in long enough to secure money for college. But she realized she had a true desire to serve and wanted Americans to continue to enjoy the freedoms that they do.

As for that college education, she graduated from Excelsior College with a degree in liberal arts in 2003 and she completed her master’s degree in management organizational leadership from American Military University in 2015. Her plans after retirement include mentoring and motivating D.C. youth.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D) presented Beldo with an honorary resolution from the city that commemorates her and her service to the United States. “Being a veteran also means that you are selfless and you are able to put something above yourself and trust those around you to work together for a common goal,” McDuffie said. “Veterans are leaders and they are heroes, and we thank them for their service.”

The 98-year-old church of roughly 2,000 members in Ledroit Park serves many retired and active veterans, said the Rev. Terry Streeter, the church’s pastor. The Veterans Day service was born out his experience ministering to veterans suffering from PTSD, presiding over military funerals, and losing several friends during the Vietnam War. “It just moved on my heart to do so,” Streeter told the AFRO.