Editor's Note: This is part five of a five-part series.
They don't do it for the money. The living conditions are sparse. They're up before the sun rises. And the work is grueling.
So why do the Navy men and women of the USS Harry S. Truman choose to serve onboard?
The reasons vary, but the sacrifices are similar. Commanding Officer Michael Groothousen of Houston, Texas, is the ship's captain. He has moved his family 14 times during his nearly 30-year career, but says it's worth it.
"A lot of us feel deeply that it's important to give something back," he said. "I'm surrounded by such an amount of youth and enthusiasm that it really does keep you young."
The young people aboard the aircraft carrier come from all 50 states. The average age is only 19-and-a-half, but they have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
AC2 Erika Rogers of Chicago, Ill., helps with air traffic control.
"With me controlling aircraft in the air, that's allowing you to know the skies are safe and you have your military branches looking out for you in the air, on the water and on land," she said.
In 26 years, Lt. Cmdr. R.D. Jones of Philadelphia has worked on seven carriers. He says the job has given him a chance.
"We have opportunities in this country to be anyone or anything we want," Jones said. "I believe that as a black man. I want my children to have the same as I have."
ET2 Faith Heatherly of Allentown, Pa., is serving because she wanted to see the world.
"I decided I really wanted to go see new things," Heatherly said. "I'd been living in the same town all my life."
And she has: Greece, Turkey, Bahrain. Her husband knows all about long deployments too. He works on a submarine.
BM3 Heather Marcus of Martins Ferry, Ohio, joined the crew to challenge herself.
"People look to you like, 'Maybe she won't be able to lift that or maybe she won't be tasked with that job because she won't be able to do that,'" she said. "I just laugh at them."
There's no doubt that Sept. 11 has changed the servicemen and women aboard the Truman.
"We used to be able to relax while close to home," said Bryant Kincaid of Danville, Ind., the Lieutenant Commander of the Combat Direction Center. "Now we all know we have to pay attention."
Cmdr. Ted Carter of Pascoag, R.I., an executive officer, said Sept. 11 isn't the reason for the crew's service aboard the ship, but it adds to their motivation.
"The men and women do their job on the ship because it's their job. It's a sense of purpose," Carter said. "I don't think 9-11 drives them to do it, but it gives them that little extra boost."
One boost before aviators take off reads: "Let's roll."
"I get a lot of smiles from troops on deck and from pilots as I salute them and they go off in combat," said Lt. (JG) Chris "Bull" Servello of Patuxent River, Md. "It's motivation."