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Patriotic Article
Military

By Army Capt. Michelle Lunato

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Father, Son Deploy Together to Afghanistan
(March 9, 2011)

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Army Staff Sgt. Steven Kemper and Spc. James Kemper, father and son, meet up at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan for a little family time. Steven, a multi-channel transmission systems operator-maintainer with Alpha Company, 151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which falls under the 307th ESB’s command, is stationed in northern Afghanistan. James, a parachute rigger with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, is located at Bagram Air Field in central Afghanistan. Courtesy Photo - 10/17/2010
Army Staff Sgt. Steven Kemper and Spc. James Kemper, father and son, meet up at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan for a little family time. Steven, a multi-channel transmission systems operator-maintainer with Alpha Company, 151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which falls under the 307th ESB's command, is stationed in northern Afghanistan. James, a parachute rigger with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, is located at Bagram Air Field in central Afghanistan. Courtesy Photo - 10/17/2010
 BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (3/7/2011) - As thousands of soldiers deploy to Afghanistan, thousands of family members are left in the states to bear the burden of that freedom. Whether their deploying soldier is a spouse, child or sibling, the demand on the family can be stressful. When both the husband and the son deploy together, the weight on that family is a lot higher, and more personal.

However, for the father and son who are deploying together, it is a completely opposite feeling of excitement and relief, said Coleman, Fla., resident Army Staff Sgt. Steven Kemper, a multi-channel transmission systems operator-maintainer with Alpha Company, 151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which falls under the 307th ESB's command in northern Afghanistan. “Knowing where [my son] is at is better than hearing things on the news.”

For the Orlando, Fla., resident son, Army Spc. James Kemper, a parachute rigger with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, which is located at Bagram Air Field in central Afghanistan, having his dad around on deployment is a huge plus. “It is a great time to spend with just dad,” said James. “It will make for good stories to tell the kids, and I kind of get to keep an eye on him.”

Though Steven and James, who are both part of the Florida National Guard, are not located at the same base in Afghanistan, they have found time to visit with each other when passing through each other's location on missions. In those short visits they got to know each other's jobs and comrades more, said Steven. “I like seeing where he is at, and most of the guys he is with.”

When the deployment first appeared on the radar for the family, the father and son tried to deploy with the same unit. “I wanted him to come with us so I could protect him,” said the Special Forces son. And, with a big smile and glance over at dad, he added, “You can always learn something from the old guys too.”
Age doesn't stop a good soldier from serving, said Steven. “I am as old as my equipment, and we are both going out.” However, he admitted that he was ready to hang up the boots, but wanted to deploy with his son James. He's the reason I am still here, he said. “I would have retired already.”

Knowing that her husband, Steven, could have been home enjoying retirement instead of living in the rough terrain of northern Afghanistan, has given Kimberly Kemper mixed feelings, she said. “I worry a bit... but, it's always nicer when my husband is with one of the boys. I feel that way, they are not so alone.”

Kimberly's calm comes from experience. This is not the first time she has been through this situation. In 2008, Steven's first deployment crossed paths with his other son's deployment as well. It may have been a different scene, Iraq, and a different son, Randy, but the benefits were all the same for the men.

Nevertheless, experience does not make the fact that both husband and son are both in a combat zone. “I really believe that the hardest job is truly the wife at home, but it goes by quickly and soon everyone will be home safely,” said Kimberly.

James' wife, Kameron Kemper, agrees that being at home, on the waiting end, is not an easy task. “It gets really hard being both mom and dad, and being responsible for every choice made, but I know that he'd give anything to be home and help, so that's what keeps me going.” With both husband and father-in-law's absence taking a toll on the family, there are still some good outcomes, said Kameron. “Even though I know they are not near each other, I feel like James having his father there, keeps him safe.” The comfort the men are able to provide for each other makes having them both gone a bit easier to handle, said Kameron. “It makes it a little easier on him to be able to have someone so close to him who is going through the same things.”

And with both of their husbands gone, the two women have had to rely on each other for support as well, said Kameron. “Kim is the one person close to me who actually gets what I'm going through.”

With two completely different roles in the war, the father and son have had a chance to learn a little more about what the other does, and just how it all fits into the progress in Afghanistan. “I don't know too much about signal,” said James, the parachute rigger. “But, our guys are sure glad they can talk to us. So, I'm sure glad I have my dad. He knows what he is doing.”

As part of the signal task force that provides communication networks across the entire country, Steven knows how critical his mission is. “Without signal, no one goes anywhere.”

Of course, the Special Forces Soldier has to give his dad a hard time once and a while, said Steven. “He still calls me a leg.”

As a rigger, James is actually at the base more now than in his 2006 deployment; and he said he is okay with that. “I wanted to be a Fobbit [Forward Operating Base resident] now. I did all my cool guy stuff in Iraq.”

Embracing his new-found Fobbit role is just fine for the Special Forces soldier since he knows his job of rigging shipments of everything from food to tanks, is keeping his comrades in the fight. “If they are asking for it, then they NEED it,” said James. His experienced father nodded and agreed, “If you can't get the stuff, you can't fight.”

And if there were no communication assets, we wouldn't even know what our soldiers out there need, said James. “All and all, we are all in the same fight.”

Kameron only hopes that the fight her family is so much a part of will not carry over to her and James' 4-year-old son, Tate, who they describe as a “future soldier.” “Having my husband gone is nearly unbearable. I couldn't imagine my baby being deployed... but if it happens, I think I would feel better about his father being deployed with him,” just like Steven is there for James.
By Army Capt. Michelle Lunato
359th Signal Brigade
Copyright 2011

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