A Father and Son Ship off To Iraq

I found this story in the Los Angeles Times, although I suspect that you will probably find it elsewhere. I thought that it was very touching. I suspect that if my son was in the service and I had the opportunity to serve with him I might try to. You never stop being a parent.

“SILVER LAKE, Kan. — In the winter of 1966, Kendall Phelps enlisted in the Marine Corps. As he stepped onto the tarmac, ready to head off to the Vietnam War, Phelps saw his father cry for the first time.

Nearly four decades later, the retired master gunnery sergeant felt the same anguish when his oldest son, Chris, was deployed in 2003 for the Iraq war. As he shed his own tears, the schoolteacher swore he would convince the Marine Reserves to take him back and allow him to fight by his son’s side.

“I’m a father and a Marine. I can’t separate the two,” said Phelps, 57, a clarinet player who runs the music program for Silver Lake’s schools. “I need to be there with Chris.”

On Friday, Kendall Phelps will get his wish.

Father and son have been assigned to the same unit. At the end of this week, they will leave for Camp Lejeune, N.C., to meet up and train with the 5th Civil Affairs Group. They are scheduled to arrive in Iraq in March for a seven-month tour of duty in the Al Anbar province west of Baghdad, where snipers and suicide bombers have become routine. For Chris Phelps, a major in the Marine Corps, this will be his second tour in Iraq.

When the men board the transport plane, Kendall Phelps will leave behind four other grown children, six grandchildren and Sherma, his wife of 36 years. Chris Phelps, 34, will say goodbye to his wife, Lisa, and four boys — all under the age of 7, but old enough to be scared when told their father was returning to the Middle East.

Chris’ boys still don’t know that their grandfather also will be heading to Iraq.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to tell them,” said Lisa, 30. “We figured we’d let the first news sink in before we dropped another bomb.”

Phelps’ quest to join his son in war is an extreme example of fatherly love and patriotic pride.

National Guard officials know of only a handful of instances where parents and children are serving together. Officials with the four major branches of the armed forces say that while there are numerous examples of family members serving overseas in the same battalion, it is rare to have a father and son assigned to the same unit.

Quite simply, it’s too dangerous because of the possibility that both members of the family could be killed in one helicopter accident or a single firefight. That happened to the Sullivan family, the World War II tragedy in which five brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, died when the cruiser Juneau was sunk.

The Department of Defense allows service members from the same immediate family to request assignment to different units or ships. However, if the family members volunteer to be together, there is no policy to prevent it.”

There is more to the story and the link above will take you to it. I thought that it was very interesting.

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