Mother, Son Begin Army Journey Together
by U.S. Army Terrance Bell
October 3, 2022
“No one believed me,” Erica L. Esqueda
recalled about her decision to join the Army.
friends thought of her as a “girlie girl.” The San Antonio
beautician was never without the latest fashion, hair and nails. It
made it hard to fathom the idea of her trading designer apparel for
Army camouflage patterns.
One of her longtime salon customers
– an older Italian lady who often talked with her hands – belted out
one of her usual boisterous, up-from-the-belly cackles as Esqueda
shared her Soldierly ambitions.
“Oh, Erica, you’re so funny”
the woman chided between heaving laughs. “I said, ‘No, I’m really
being serious.’ She goes, ‘No you’re not!’”
Yes, she was.
Shredding the image of her signature girlishness, Esqueda
embraced the grit and grind of basic combat training, graduating
earlier this year. The 37-year-old then tackled the Ordnance
School’s 91B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic Course at Fort Lee, completing
the 13-week program of instruction September 27. 2022.
in her initial entry journey, Esqueda is scheduled to take a shot at
jumping out of planes and earning the coveted Parachutist Badge
prior to taking a permanent party assignment at Fort Bragg, N.C. She
shrugs off her lofty ambitions as though they have always existed.
“I really don’t mind getting my hands dirty,” said the wife and
mother of two sons.
No doubt, Esqueda is dashing into the
vast wilderness of challenge. Doing so has considerably thinned the
ranks of her nonbelievers and naysayers while creating super fans of
those supportive from the start. That includes her 20-year-old son,
Jose, who is still awed and wide-eyed by his mother’s
Pvt. Erica and Pfc. Jose Esqueda
pose for photo at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee on September 15, 2022. The mother and son’s initial entry into the
U.S. Army was overlapped for basic combat training at Fort
Jackson, South Carolina and advanced individual training at
the Ordnance School, allowing them to be supportive of each
one's journey. The pair also is scheduled to attend the
Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell)
“My mom … was always about her nails –
never wanted to break them, and they were always done. Her hair was,
too, and she always wore nice clothes,” he said. “Then, she ends up
coming to a place where she can’t really do her hair, can’t do her
nails and can’t do her makeup as much.
“Seeing my mom and
the way she’s doing this with ease – like it’s nothing to her – I
can honestly see her going all the way through with it.”
has occupied a front row seat during his mom’s life-changing
makeover. He enlisted back in 2021, but injured himself during BCT at
Fort Jackson, S.C. He tried again in May 2022, a few weeks after his
mother shipped off to the same location. He also followed his mother
to Fort Lee, where they trained in the same military occupational
specialty, albeit a few weeks apart.
Throughout the initial
training, the active duty Soldiers have been able to visit one
another and have been supportive of their shared journey. As such,
the Esquedas have been oblivious to the awkwardness generated by the
occasional exchange of affectionate words, quick embraces and
“People think it is interesting and cool,”
said a grinning Jose, now a private first class, and not the least
uneasy about forging an Army path alongside his mother. “Of course,
I get teased here and there, but I know it’s just in fun.”
Fort Lee, Pfc. Esqueda is assigned to Bravo Co., 16th Ord.
Battalion, and his mother belonged to sister unit Foxtrot Co.
Jokesters have called him “mama’s boy” and occasionally threatened
to “tell his mom” about any of his misdeeds or shortcomings.
“It’s funny,” he said. “The sergeants in the unit would be in on it,
Jokes aside, Pfc. Esqueda is Pvt. Esqueda’s biggest
“I love my mom a lot,” said the Soldier. “It’s one of
those protective-son type things. I’m willing to give my life for my
mom; that’s just me. I know a lot of people will say the same thing,
but she is my world. She is my life. She’s … gone to hell and back
Erica initially saw herself as a “protective Mama
Bear” parent, ready to throw blows in defense of her “child” or
younger battle buddies if she felt they were being treated unfairly.
That attitude faded as she developed a trust in the institution to
do right by her son and others.
“My first instinct was I
didn’t want anyone getting after or yelling at my child. That’s my
job,” she said with a hint of defiance. “Being here, though, makes
you open up your eyes to a lot of things, especially
discipline-wise, because … the younger generation needs a lot of
guidance. My son is one of those individuals.”
is an “outgoing, bubbly, gets-along-with-everybody type” who needs
“to buckle up for the real world,” said his mother. He also is
someone who longed to serve in uniform since early childhood.
Ironically, the Esquedas’ ambitions collided when Mrs. Esqueda –
after sitting in on her son’s recruiting visits – became curious
about joining herself.
“When we sat down with the recruiter
and he would talk about the benefits, it interested me,” said Pvt.
Esqueda, “because I’m not getting any younger and neither is my
spouse. Benefits are very expensive nowadays.”
There is more,
however, to the Esquedas’ service than benefits. Pvt. Esqueda has
declared the Army her life from this point on and hopes her
continued service will eventually negate the considerable amount of
uncertainty she has felt about her place in the world.
feel like I will find something internally I’ve been searching for,”
Pvt. Esqueda’s Soldier-son – who will follow his
mother to airborne training and plans to add Ranger School for good
measure – also sees himself as a careerist. His youthfulness
notwithstanding, he has exhibited an unadulterated confidence in his
decision to serve the nation.
“For me, it’s protecting
America, the place I grew up in,” he said. “I want people to keep
their freedom and live the lives we always lived. That’s the reason
why America is what it is.”
If that chord of patriotic
sentiment isn’t as convincing as any beautician turned mechanic,
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