JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Every veteran has a story to tell.

A Tri-Cities veteran put his into a book, and the project left him with concerning conclusions.

“I graduated from Science Hill in ’68,” said Michael Berry, a veteran of the United States Navy. “I went to ETSU and couldn’t get a draft deferment, so I joined the Naval Reserves to dodge the draft,” he said, laughing at the irony of it all.

It turns out, his decision to join would launch a military career that lasted for decades and took him around the world.

Berry made the unusual decision to re-enlist after a tour of duty and more than a decade in the U.S. Navy Reserves. (Photo: Michael Berry)

After two years of active duty, Berry returned to the Tri-Cities and spent 12 years at the Navy Reserve Center in Kingsport.

Then In 1985, Berry made an uncommon decision for a person in his situation. He re-enlisted for active duty with hopes of landing an assignment on the USS Missouri, the legendary battleship that hosted the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945 ending World War II.

“It was wonderful to serve on a ship like that with the history that it had,” Berry said. “We’d go places, and anywhere in the world it was recognized.”

Berry said the experience taught him a profound lesson about the power and influence of the United States on a global stage.

“When a battleship pulled in, it drew everyone’s attention,” he said. “If you were in a port, everyone knew you were there. And you didn’t mess with a battleship.”

Michael Berry (right) says serving on the USS Missouri was an honor and the highlight of his military career. “Anywhere in the world, it was recognized.” (Photo: Michael Berry)

But Berry said soon things began to change. The Navy began decommissioning the battleships, something he said never made sense.

“In my opinion, it’s weakened the defense,” Berry said.

Battleships led the American fleet from World War II through the Persian Gulf War in support of the United States Marines on missions around the world. But changing technology and shifting political tides took the battleships out of favor in Washington D.C. One by one, Berry said he watched them being decommissioned in the name of saving taxpayer dollars.

“The Taxpayer Navy” asks the question, “Are we a safer nation now than we were in previous years based on our current Naval force levels?” and concludes that the answer is no.

After retiring from the U.S. Navy, Berry said curiosity led him to begin researching the actual cost of the Navy’s fleet. That research resulted in a book titled “The Taxpayer Navy.”

“I wrote it to share with the taxpayers what it takes to operate the Navy on a daily basis and what is being wasted by the Pentagon,” Berry said.

Berry said that research left him concerned that the rush to save money has left the country vulnerable.

“There needs to be a change made,” he said. “You can’t continue on the path we’re on now and try to engage China in any kind of war. I don’t think it’s winnable.”

Despite his concerns, Berry said he’s grateful for the chance to serve his country, and he’s hopeful the United States always will lead the world.

“I don’t think the United States is the superpower it needs to be,” he said. “And that needs to change.”