Father's Day Shared by
Father - Son Soldiers
This Father's Day, hundreds of thousands of deployed dads will miss the opportunity to be "King for a Day" at home with their loved ones. For one deployed dad, however, Father's Day 2009 comes with a special bonus.
Army Major Benjamin Rex is serving in Iraq alongside his youngest son, 18-year-old Pfc Jeromy Rex.
Making this Father's Day even more special for the two is the fact that the elder Rex missed Jeromy's birth while serving as an enlisted infantryman during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s. Both men now serve with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Major Rex is a staff officer with the brigade's Headquarters company, and is proud that his son chose to serve with him.
"Having my son follow in my footsteps to serve in the Panther Brigade is one of those rare legacy things you can't help but to be proud of," the father of three said. "I never pushed the military as a career on my children, so knowing that he volunteered to be a soldier -- a third-generation infantryman and paratrooper -- and that he wanted to share a deployment with his dad has been pretty cool.
"Having him end up in the exact same company and platoon where I started my career 22 years ago adds even more to the legacy," he added.
Military service is nothing new in the Rex family. Major Rex's father served in the 101st Airborne Division in the 1960s. The major’s two older children, Tabitha and Brandon, are students at Ball State University in Indiana. Brandon is enrolled in the ROTC program, seeking to follow his father's footsteps by being a commissioned officer. Major Rex's wife Kelly is a civilian employee at Fort Bragg’s Civilian Personnel Assistance Center.
For 18-year-old Jeromy Rex, the chance to serve with his father during a deployment is an experience he cherishes and knows will bring them closer together.
"I'm just really glad to share this experience with him. I feel it's going to bring us closer as father and son, and hopefully someday after he gets out of the military, I can step up and fill his huge shoes," said the young Pfc.
Part of the fun of being deployed with his father, he added, comes when people who know the elder soldier see him and say, "Hey, it's Little Rex."
For a short time, father and son were based together in Baghdad. But with the June 30 deadline to pull combat forces out of Iraq’s urban areas, the younger soldier's unit had to move to the outskirts of the city to comply with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement. Major Rex tries to see his son whenever he can, but is mindful of the need to to not distract him from the mission, and to give his son some "space" to develop into his own man. His concerns are tempered by the knowledge that his son is surrounded by experienced paratroopers.
We'd like to wish Major Rex and all our other military dads, especially those who are currently deployed, a very Happy Father's Day 2009. It's thanks to you and your fellow service members that we have the opportunity to celebrate with our dads in freedom.
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