Hometown Veterans: From combat Navy veteran to quilter
Retired combat veteran served 21 years in the Navy and now runs a successful quilting business with his wife.
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Growing up without can hurt you or motivate you to great levels. For Todd Cassell, he craved more than the small town of Collinsville, Virginia. “I grew up very poor. We grew up with not a whole lot. We lived in a single wide trailer, I had a single mom who raised my sister and myself. I knew junior year in high school, the military was calling me and I needed to get away and start developing my own thing,” said Cassell.
Small town boy, big time dreams! Desert Storm broke out and that further pushed his desire to defend his country. One year later, Todd graduated high school and joined the United States Navy as a Sonar Technician
Cassell said his job was like having a radar under the ocean. “I did a lot of undersea warfare stuff with submarines and acoustic analysis and a lot of listening. So we use sound to track, classify, and analyze targets. And what primary target but a submarine. I was deployed a lot. Most of the ships I served on were destroyers. We would be forward deployed to the middle east primarily out of Norfolk. Most of my time was spent in the middle east deployed six to seven eight months at a time. At one point, we were patrolling the Persian Gulf and doing operations against Iraq. So basically our job was to stop suspicious vessels whether they be merchant vessels, fishing vessels, pirates, a lot of these vessels we had to stop them, basically pull them over in the ocean and board them. We would search ships looking for any illegal drugs, illegal weapons that were being smuggled into Iraq at that time. So, it was our job to make sure those drugs/weapons didn’t make it to their destinations.”
Back in the states was Todd’s wife, Melissa. They met in the 10th grade after she boldly asked him to prom. For 21 years his high school sweetheart supported him and his military career. But another girl was pulling at his heart. My daughter was getting to the ten or eleven year old age and I thought it’d be very important if I were at home during those critical times. So I decided to make that jump and retire at 20 years and It was the smartest decision ever.”
Now out of dangerous waters and into civilian life, Todd had his bachelor’s in technology education and started teaching at Martinsville High School. Five years into teaching, he had no idea his life was about to take a drastic turn. “My wife came to me one day with this idea of buying a long arm quilting machine. I had no idea what a long arm quilting machine was. I had no idea what it was used for. I researched and realized I could buy a couple of cars for the same price. So we bought the quilting machine, put it upstairs, and ran a long arm business out of the house for a year.”
The business exploded! Orders were coming in from all over the country and soon they needed more space. Today, if you’re driving through the town of Rocky Mount, Virginia, you’ll find their store front Fork Mountain Quilting. Todd says it’s the least he can do for his wife. “The way I look at it is my wife spent twenty plus years supporting me and my career and now it’s my turn to support her.”
Todd has traveled the world, his challenge coins are many, the business is thriving, and when it comes to the future uncharted waters are his specialty.
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