Get the top 5 daily headlines and breaking news alerts from Seattle’s #1 morning news

How Bremerton supports thousands of military families

BREMERTON, Wash. — Bremerton is a Navy town. Always has been. One wouldn’t exist without the other.

So, the city and Navy work closely together.

“Seventy-five percent of my 35,000 employees live in this community around us,” said Naval Base Kitsap Commander Captain Alan Schrader. “We are Bremerton as much as Bremerton is the Navy. We are made up of the community that’s around us and we are very active in supporting this community.”

As Bremerton’s most vital economic driver, Captain Schrader says he works closely with city and county officials on social and health services that benefit the entire community.

But the biggest focus on base is supporting the thousands of families there, easing the hardships of military life with programs that support physical and mental health — and overall wellness for sailors and their families that endure deployments that separate families for months on end.

“We provide programs and services to help their support network and to allow the families have a place to get together,” Captain Schrader said. “Look out for each other and share experiences. Help with things like the washing machine just broke two days after the dad just left for deployment. So, we have a lot of services that allow them to get the help that they need. It’s a team effort.”

The deployments are tough on families, no question. But it's the reunions that make it all worthwhile -- those precious moments of unbridled emotion.

“I think every American needs to see a Navy ship return home from a deployment,” Captain Schrader said. “Because when you see the pride and the joy of a job well done. Coming in, after doing some pretty dangerous stuff from around the world and to see the joy in the family is… I just can't describe it you have to experience it.”

Navy life is nomadic. Traveling the world is one huge benefit, but relocating is another stressful aspect. This is Commander Schrader's third Bremerton assignment, and he says he loves it here.

In fact, his predecessor, the previous base commander, had no intention of retiring here, but he fell in love with it, and now he his family live here full-time.