Not everyone gets to be really good at something when they’re only 18 months old, or turn that something into Olympic dreams and a career in special operations. But that’s the trajectory DeLand native Kameron Westerberg is on in the U.S. Navy.
Westerberg, the son of Heather Smith of DeLand, and Kase Holmes of Casselberry, spent his first seven years in DeLand, and attended Stetson Baptist School. He was already devoted to something he had been doing since he was 18 months old, and that’s swimming.
The 22-year-old certified in S.C.U.B.A., by the age of 10, while visiting his grandparents in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. A natural athlete, Westerberg progressed to where he is close to Olympic ranking in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle — his events — and he’s got his eye on Paris 2024.
When Heather remarried in 2007, the family moved to Casper, Wyoming, where Westerberg continued to swim. Graduating from Kelly Walsh High School in 2017, he earned scholarships to New Rochelle College in New York. His first year was a full schedule of courses, swimming and lifeguard duties. He earned all A’s, and blasted the school pool records in his events. But he wasn’t sure of where he was going.
A career in medicine was a possibility, said his mother, a nurse herself who is in grad school, studying to be a nurse practitioner. “I told him plastic surgery,” she recently said, laughing. “Patients leave happy, and you’re never on call.”
Westerberg had done a part-time stint in AdventHealth DeLand’s emergency department as a registrant for a year, when his mom was an R.N. there, so he had an interest. But he was still feeling his way around at New Rochelle — and that was coming at a cost. Even though Heather had relocated back to DeLand in 2017, getting home on school breaks was nearly impossible for Westerberg.
“It was so expensive,” Heather remembered. “You couldn’t fly earlier and get better rates because they had finals. He had scholarships for the tuition, but everything else had to come from me.”
Joining the Navy in 2019 and training to become a Navy SEAL were Westerberg’s idea, but he had to talk his mother into it. “They will make me eat right,” he told her. “And they will make me work out.”
The discipline appealed to him. It was time to get serious. He would be at his peak age for competition in 2024.
“He’s really smart,” Smith said. “And he is really good at swimming. And they [the Navy] really need those things.”
Westerberg went off to boot camp in Great Lakes in February 2020, and then to Class “A” Technical School, where he graduated at the top of his class.
Recently promoted to aviation Ordnanceman, he is based in San Diego and is assigned to one of the Nimitz-class supercarriers, the USS Carl Vinson. The aircraft carrier has a crew of more than 6,000, and Westerberg can only call home when in port. Heather hadn’t spoken to him recently.
“He was somewhere off the coast of Hawaii last week,” she said. “That’s all I know.”
Unexpectedly, the carrier docked back in San Diego for supplies the next day, and he texted his mother to arrange a phone call. She told him she’ll take the call, even if it’s 2 a.m.
”We all really should take advantage of being able to talk to our loved ones whenever we want to,” Smith said. “When that’s taken away, it really makes the worry intensify.”
“That’s the hardest part,” she said.