KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (10/9/2012) – Several towns and cities across the United States have seen sons, daughters, mothers and friends off to war, with many coming back with battle scars, and some in a flag-draped casket, having paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
Spc. Derek Gentry, a paralegal specialist assigned to Kandahar City, Afghanistan, in Regional Command South with Task Force Ripcord, 503d Military Police Battalion (Airborne) out of Fort Bragg, N.C., places the 503rd MP Battalion (Airborne) unit patch on his right shoulder to signify his service with the unit during a time of war May 27, 2012. Soldiers are authorized the wear of the unit patch they served in war with after having been deployed. Photo by Army Capt. Anouar Bencheqroun, 503rd MP Battalion (Airborne)
Military service is not easy and it can be especially difficult for the ones left behind; however, service can sometimes be a family affair with family members serving in the U.S. military simultaneously.
This is the case for Spc. Derek Gentry, a paralegal specialist assigned to Kandahar City, Afghanistan in Regional Command-South with Task Force Ripcord, 503rd Military Police Battalion (Airborne) out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
Spc. Gentry has a younger brother, a cousin and an uncle deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Spc. Gentry joined the military three and a half years ago and says his family played a large role in his decision to join.
“Anything that I ever wanted to accomplish, my family has stood behind me in my attempts throughout my life,” said Spc. Gentry. “Both my parents were in the Navy. My older brother is currently in the Navy, my little brother is an MP in the Army, and my little sister plans to join soon.”
Spc. Gentry's younger brother, Pfc. David Gentry, also credits his military service to strong family support. He is currently deployed to Regional Command-East as a military policeman with the 173d Infantry Brigade.
“My family is primarily military,” said the younger Gentry. “9/11 cemented it in my mind. My fellow soldiers are like my second family.”
Patriotism has been one of the major reasons military service has been the profession of choice for the Gentrys.
“[Patriotism] means to me having the undying gratitude to serve and defend the people of the United States of America no matter the risk involved,” says Spc. Gentry.
His brother adds that he's proud of how patriotic they are.
“I think it is a great thing that our family [is best at military service]; we show our true colors and we would defend our country with our lives if needed,” said Pfc. Gentry.
Gentry's uncle, Capt. Matthew Sawyer, is another deployed service member and works in Regional Command-North, serving with the 125th Infantry Battalion.
Sawyer is a former Marine and currently serves as a field artillery officer with the Michigan National Guard. He echoes his nephews' view of patriotism as “thoughtlessly giving of one's self for one's country, especially when one's country is at war.”
Their cousin, Sgt. Deborah Sawyer, is another service member serving in Afghanistan. She is a military policewoman in the Pennsylvania National Guard and works in Regional Command West.
She is equally cheerful about her family's history of military service and proud of her family members that are spread out amongst the various regional commands in Afghanistan.
The Gentrys and Sawyers are certainly not the only family serving together in Afghanistan. Task Force Ripcord has others in its ranks that have family members serving alongside one another in uniform and deploying to a combat theater.
Master Sgt. Timothy Larrison and his daughter, Spc. Katelyn Larrison, both serve with the 303rd Military Police Company, a Reserve unit from Jackson, Miss. They are deployed to Kandahar City under the leadership of the Fort Bragg-based Task Force Ripcord and Regional Command South.
Larrison has been a military and civilian police-officer for 24 years, and a veteran of three combat deployments. He credits his father, who was a military policeman during the Korean War, and his brother, a retired Navy veteran, for instilling a strong sense of military service in him. Patriotism for him is “being committed to doing a job that few others care to do, even in dangerous and unpleasant conditions.”
The younger Larrison, who is a communications specialist in the 303rd MP Company, echoes her father's thoughts that patriotism is “loyalty to your country and doing the most you can to honor and respect it.”
“Serving together definitely brings us all closer together,” she said, referring to the father-daughter deployment with the same company.
The older Larrison is proud of his daughter's military service and their concurrent deployment.
“Being deployed with my daughter is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life,” says Master Sgt. Larrison. “Not too many fathers can say they had the opportunity to do that.”
Although he has witnessed his daughter serve under stressful situations in a deployed combat environment, he adds that “even though she is an adult, I can still picture her in pigtails and glasses as a five year old.”
Both Larrisons have aspirations for a long military career. Spc. Larrison proudly adds that she “love[s] supporting this country and delivering any skill I have to the armed conflict we have going on.”
Throughout all these stories, a common thread emerges of strong patriotic traits that drive these American soldiers to serve in defense of their country in time of war.
The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks provided many soldiers with a purpose to service and consecrated for older soldiers on their military commitment. The family ties that relate these soldiers are further strengthened by their military service and combat experience.
Courtesy of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd ID
Provided through DVIDS
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