By Marine Corps Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 4, 2009 - When Cpl. Jared P. Lopez joined the Marine Corps in September 2006, he always knew there would be a possibility that he would deploy at the same time as his father, who has served in the Marine Corps for nearly 20 years. But he didn't think they would end up on the same base in Iraq. Much to his surprise, that's just what happened. Master Sgt. Juan Lopez, the operations chief for the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment Security Detachment, arrived here in February, a month after his son did.
Both Marines agreed that having family near them on the deployment has made it easier on them and the rest of their family.
"I can always talk to him if I have any questions," said Corporal Lopez, a data wire technician with Communication Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. "It's good to have a mentor that knows about life and the military."
He said that his father helps him through everyday life and gives him advice on the military that he has learned during his long career.
"You can define leadership, but I think there's a difference as far as the military and civilian sides of it [are concerned]," the corporal said, pointing out his father's well-rounded knowledge. "He has given me good insight."
Master Sergeant Lopez said the best part of having his son serving with him in the still relatively dangerous country is the positive impact it has had on the corporal's mother.
"His mom's doing well," the senior Lopez said. "She's very happy with her husband and son over here at the same time. It makes her feel a lot more comfortable."
The younger Lopez said he thought about following in his father's footsteps many years before they found themselves together in Iraq.
"I always wanted to join since I was young," he said, noting that college was not the path he wished to follow after high school.
"I took some college, like two classes," he said. "I said I'd rather put my time in, join the Marine Corps and serve my country, and that way set myself up for college at the same time."
One of Master Sergeant Lopez's other three sons, Cpl. Dane Lopez, an intelligence analyst with 1st Radio Battalion, 1st Marine Division, originally was scheduled to deploy to Iraq at the same time as his father and brother, before sudden changes were made. His father remembers having a good hunch that his two sons might join the Corps, recalling some good indicators from their childhood.
"I just knew that this was probably something they would do," he said. "They were always talking to Marines, wearing Marine gear and doing Marine things."
For Corporal Lopez, growing up as a "military brat" and then joining the Marine Corps shed some light on all the things he observed while living with his father through much of his long career as an infantryman.
"Experiencing the Marine Corps first-hand was different," he acknowledged. "As a dependent, all you had to worry about was school. I knew my dad was going to deploy, be in the field, and be gone for two weeks at a time for training.
"After witnessing the fleet, I understand more and more ... where his certain mannerisms came from and why he was the way he was," he continued. "When he said he was worn out and had to wake up early, now I see why he went to bed."
Recently, Lopez beat out about 50 of his peers to be honor graduate at the group's Corporal's Leadership Course here. He said having his father in the Marine Corps contributed to his success and pushed him to excel at everything he does.
"He definitely inspires me to give everything my best," he said.
Lopez said that he is still deciding if he is going to make the Marine Corps a career as his father did. He added that he may follow in his father's footsteps by doing the same special duty as him.
"I love being a Marine," he said. "Now that I am getting closer and closer to the end [of my first term], I want to do [Marine Security Guard duty]. If that takes me into the next enlistment, that is fine."
Both Marines said they have been grateful for the opportunity to serve side by side.
"I think it's an honor to be able to serve with your family," Corporal Lopez said. "It's definitely made things a little easier."
(Marine Corps Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis serves with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.)