Military Hero - Mizpah Valmoria - US Navy
03.29.21 Military Hero
Mizpah Valmoria - US Navy
When Mizpah Valmoria enlisted in the Navy the day before her 18th birthday, in a way it was the start of her life in the US.
Mizpah was born in Indiana while her parents, who are from the Philippines, were serving as missionaries. Mizpah and her family moved back to the Philippines after two years in the States. She grew up outside Manila, in a tight-knit family of her parents and older sister, as well as extended family.
In 2008, Mizpah had to return to the US to prove her citizenship. She came to San Diego through connections to her church. She arrived by herself — no family, barely speaking English and with little ability to communicate with her family back in the Philippines. She left while in the middle of nursing school, and now had to figure out what to do.
A friend from church knew someone who was in the Navy. He advised her to join the service. She was intimidated by the language barrier and the training and would have to learn how to swim!
But she prayed and decided to go for it.
Before enlisting, the Navy gave Mizpah an IQ test to determine the jobs for which she would qualify. Mizpah’s high score resulted in a list of specialty jobs coming with a security clearance. She was given Operations Specialist, doing tracking and navigation.
“It was a blessing because I just got out of college at that time, so my memory was still fresh. I got a higher result. So I got that job.”
That statement is indicative of who Mizpah is at her core — humble, hard-working, full of faith, determined. Those personal traits align with the values of the Clippers, a team that would become her team later down the road.
Then she was immediately shipped from sunny San Diego to Chicago for boot camp and training, just in time for winter. Mizpah had to toughen up fast. Everything was a new experience. She didn’t have much contact with family; only mail was allowed and it was tough to get from family outside the country. She experienced snow for the first time, marching through it for drills. She was pushed into the water and learned to swim. She was made fun of for her accent and for needing instructions repeated, but her English improved.
After seven months in Chicago, she was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan in April 2009. She did back-to-back sea duty — three six-month deployments. She worked on USS Curtis Wilbur DDG54, a destroyer with about 250 crew, 30 women. Mizpah tracked submarines and aircrafts, did navigation and managed the main operations of the ship.
Over the next 3 years in Japan, Mizpah would experience the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Her ship was one of the few responders, part of what was called Operation Tomodachi, which means Operation Friendship. Being five miles out, they conducted search and rescue operations and a humanitarian mission where they were able to donate food and clothes. Working in operations, Mizpah saw it all. Then the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred, where again Mizpah and her ship were responders. They stayed for 3 months and she received a humanitarian ribbon for service in operations. It’s one of the proudest moments of her career in service.
In 2012, Mizpah was stationed at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. She again did back-to-back sea duty, working on USS Chung-hoon DDG93 for the next two and a half years.
While deployed, her grandmother, with whom Mizpah was very close, passed away in the Philippines. Mizpah was unable to attend the funeral; she was part of a special operation and couldn’t leave. Realizing how much family time she had missed and how much of her youth she had spent at sea made her reevaluate her life.
When she got out of the military in 2014, she went back to the Philippines to reconnect with family. Mizpah wasn’t a huge sports fan in the Philippines, but with basketball being popular, she decided she needed an NBA team when she came back to the US. Returning to San Diego, she decided on the Clippers for their connection to her city.
She continues to work for the government, as a Veteran Service Representative, helping veterans with their benefits at the VA in San Diego. She’s proud she can still make an impact.
“Being in the Navy really taught me the value of service and to uphold that. Growing up with my parents, I see them doing it as well for people. Now I get to do it on a big scale, doing it for the country. If you want to talk about it in a deeper sense, it taught me maturity, independence, and confidence in myself. You can always do something, even if you think that you cannot do it. There’s always a way that you can do it, as long as you want it... I feel like when you are in your comfort zone, you’re not going to grow. You have to go to grow. That really speaks to me because for me, that’s been my life story. Living all the discomforts, I really needed those for me to grow as a person.”
Being at sea, she didn’t have much access to the Clippers, with no TVs. But her Clippers fandom grew exponentially when she got out of the military, and even more still during the ongoing pandemic. She says the Clippers have been her saving grace.
“During this time, it’s really helped me, a lot. I even bought a ball! It’s a huge part of me now. I even skip nights out with friends just to watch the Clippers games that are time sensitive.”
Even her parents can’t deny her passion for the team, and have become fans as well. Her mom is all in. Mizpah and her dad have had a playful competitiveness her whole life. Even though he is the one who nominated her as a Clippers Military Hero, she says he won’t admit his fandom.
Mizpah says during the pandemic, watching the games has become her way of dealing with the weight of everything going on in the world, getting a break from work and life, and spending time with family.