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Demetries Grimes: Another Run with a Top Gun?
Commander Demetries Grimes is not done serving. Now as a retired US naval officer, war hero, aviator, Secretary of Defense Executive Fellow, and diplomat, having eared his “golden wings”, he still has miles to go. In addition to multiple operational combat deployments, including two tours to Afghanistan, he has served on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, as Naval Attaché to Greece, Naval Attaché to Israel, Deputy Commander of the US base in Crete, and Advisor to NATO’s Maritime Commander in London, UK. In NEO’s interview with Commander Grimes, he discusses his thoughts on his home state of Florida and their response to Covid-19, the state of human welfare and healthcare, gun control, and many of the issues we as Americans are facing today. With all the candor and integrity befitting of an officer and a gentleman, and all the makings of a natural leader, Commander Grimes discusses the possibility of a run for congress again in the near future.
How has the state of Florida been affected by the coronavirus? Do you feel they have done a good job on containing it and raising awareness of the health risks to the public?
Florida’s economy has been hit hard. Tourism adds more than $100 billion annually to Florida’s economy. The largest employers throughout the state are the service industries tied to the travel and tourism industry. These are mostly low wage jobs at resorts, theme parks, hotels, restaurants and cruise ships whose operations have been severely impacted by social distancing requirements and efforts. Florida was late in implementing appropriate measures, such as shutting down beaches, restricting travel from out of state hot spots, and imposing uniform measures statewide to contain the spread of the virus. Governor Ron DeSantis has adjusted his direction and guidance based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but precious time was definitely lost.
What made you decide to go into the service? Did your family legacy play a role in your choice, growing up in a naval family?
My father and his friends who also served inspired me to serve. Hearing the stories of how the military changed their lives, seeing the honor and pride they took in serving the nation, and in wearing the uniform, was truly motivating. Growing up in a navy family, I had the privilege of seeing ships, submarines, aircraft and those who operated them up close. I built model ships and aircraft including the aircraft carriers USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). I never imagined I would be flying missions from these aircraft carriers years later.
You ran for congress in your state a couple of years ago on the Democratic ticket. I read that issues of gun rights, gun control and healthcare were of great importance to you. What do you believe are the greatest issues affecting your state today, and the country as a whole?
I ran as a conservative Democrat in a district that is 1/3rd Republican, 1/3rd Democrat, and 1/3rd Independent. I am a firm believer in the US Constitution and the 2nd Amendment, which protects the right of Americans to bear arms. I believe the best way to protect this right and public safety is to ensure those who choose to exercise this precious right are vetted, trained, and qualified, as we are in the military, to own the responsibilities associated with gun ownership.
Regarding healthcare, we need to improve and reduce the cost of healthcare, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, medical supplies, treatments, care, and insurance. The recent Coronovirus crisis highlights the need to take back control of our supply chains for pharmaceutical production and distribution and to rebuild our medical supply and equipment manufacturing capabilities. Additionally, in an age where a person in a “wet market” in China can be walking the streets of New York City, Athens, or any major capital city across the globe in less than 24 hours, its time to aggressively raise global food safety, health, and hygiene standards at every stage of the food supply chain.
In Florida, healthcare, immigration, and the environment are key issues…
Regarding healthcare, quality and affordability of health care plans, insurance, medical care, medication, and senior care for the growth in Florida’s aging population will remain a priority as migration of Americans from high tax states continues.
Regarding illegal immigration, massive job loss in the agriculture, tourism, and construction industries due to reduced demand related to the Coronavirus will increase pressure on the government to impose restrictions to prevent employers from hiring or retaining undocumented workers.
Regarding the environment, Floridians have a heightened awareness and respect for the environment. Floridians spend much of their time outdoors. Florida’s economy and Floridian quality of life relies on a pristine environment. Governor DeSantis, rightfully, has made protecting the environment and restoring the Everglades a priority.
Regarding the country as a whole, there is already and will continue to be debate about when we can return to “normal.” People should use this time wisely to reflect on how as individuals we can make a massive shift towards compassion, kindness, and a deeper care for our planet and all living creatures. We need to build a culture which values contribution to society above status, power, and money. We need to restore decency, civility, and respect in our daily dialogue and demand the same from our friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, and leaders. What we tolerate becomes the standard. Let’s raise the bar and keep it high.
Would you ever run again, and on the same ticket? Do you believe this country is founded on certain principles that bipartisanship can’t solve?
Following the painful first Democratic presidential debates in the Summer of 2019, I switched my voter registration to Republican. I saw first hand as a Congressional candidate how the Democratic Party was being driven to the far left by its active base. As a military veteran, the Party’s refusal to support me was an eye opener. This learning experience combined with recent events has reaffirmed my belief that our nation needs proven and trusted leadership in both parties more than ever. As I said during my campaign, “I’m not done serving.” I look forward to running again in the near future.
I believe in the founding principles of our nation. Our rights are God given, belong to us by nature, and can only be abridged by due process. Our government’s power comes from the people, as codified in our Constitution. Except where authorized by the Constitution, government does not have the authority to limit our freedom.
From the New Deal, to the Marshall Plan, the Civil Rights Act, to putting a man on the moon, our nation’s greatest achievements were made possible and will continue to be made possible through bi-partisanship.
You have an MBA from the London Business School. How does that fit into your career path as a Naval officer?
During my assignment as an Adviser to NATO’s Maritime Forces Commander in London, I took advantage of my time in London to earn my MBA at the London Business School. I am grateful the US Navy encouraged and supported me in this endeavor. It was an amazing experience that connected me with incredibly brilliant people from around the world who are industry and innovation leaders doing great things to make our future better. I hope to do the same.
I understand you are of dual heritage – one being of a Greek maternal immigrant and the other of an American father. Did you face any conflict in your identity?
I was raised to take great pride in my heritage. Coming from a family of both proud Greeks and proud Americans, I feel truly blessed coming from two great civilizations that have contributed so much to the world, especially in the areas of freedom and liberty.
What are your thoughts on the economic crisis in Greece and its economic future?
It is great to finally see competent and capable leadership in Greece. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is the first qualified leader in more than a century to serve as Prime Minister of Greece. His success in rallying Greeks to fight and contain the spread of the Coronavirus, while deploying the military and law enforcement to protect Greece’s borders against Turkey’s recent coordinated migrant assault, shows he has the leadership skills needed to look out for Greece’s interests. The economic crisis and recent Coronavirus impact on tourism highlights the need for Greece to reset national economic priorities. With its strategic location, natural resources, and highly educated population, Greece has so much potential to be a leader in the energy, construction, manufacturing, shipbuilding, agriculture, logistics, medical, education, and technology sectors. Under Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ leadership, Greece’s future is bright.
If you could give any advice to young men and women embarking on a career in service to their country, what would you tell them, based on your own experiences?
President John F. Kennedy summed it up best when he said: “I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.”
There is no other institution that sets higher standards and expectations of leadership. The responsibilities and authorities one is entrusted with are unmatched. The leadership skills one learns in the military applied properly will make them competitive and a natural leader in any endeavor beyond.