By Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 19, 2009 - This Father's day weekend has special meaning for Army Maj. Benjamin Rex. Rex, a native of Albion, Ind., is serving here alongside his son, Army Pfc. Jeromy Bruce Rex. The soldiers serve together with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
What makes this deployment even more special for the elder Rex is that his son is serving in the same company as he did during operations Desert Shield and Storm in the early 1990s, when he was an enlisted infantryman. During that deployment, he missed his son's birth.
Now serving as a primary staff officer in the brigade's headquarters company, Major Rex is proud his son volunteered to serve with him.
"Having my son follow in my footsteps to serve in the Panther Brigade is one of those rare legacy things you can't help but to be proud of," the father of three said. "I never pushed the military as a career on my children, so knowing that he volunteered to be a soldier -- a third-generation infantryman and paratrooper -- and that he wanted to share a deployment with his dad has been pretty cool.
"Having him end up in the exact same company and platoon where I started my career 22 years ago adds even more to the legacy," he added.
For 18-year-old Jeromy Rex, the chance to serve with his father during a deployment is an experience he cherishes and knows will bring them closer together.
"It's been really great having him here, because he encourages me to do better," the private first class said. "I'm just really glad to share this experience with him. I feel it's going to bring us closer as father and son, and hopefully someday after he gets out of the military, I can step up and fill his huge shoes."
Part of the fun of being deployed with his father, he added, comes when people who know the elder soldier see him and say, "Hey, it's Little Rex."
Like most fathers, Major Rex wants to see his son as often as he can. But the experienced paratrooper also knows to keep his distance so his son can focus on the mission, especially knowing the dangers of serving as an airborne infantryman in a combat environment.
"It's challenging to be a father who wants to see his son on occasion, while also trying to keep my distance so he can prove himself without me around," he said. "Knowing the dangers of the combat environment is another challenge, but I am reassured by the fact that he is surrounded by experienced paratroopers."
For a short time, father and son were based together in Baghdad. But with the June 30 deadline to pull combat forces out of Iraq's urban areas, the younger soldier's unit had to move to the outskirts of the city to comply with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement.
Military service is nothing new in the Rex family. Major Rex's father served in the 101st Airborne Division in the 1960s.The major's two older children, Tabitha and Brandon, are students at Ball State University in Indiana. Brandon is enrolled in the ROTC program, seeking to follow his father's footsteps by being a commissioned officer. Kelly Rex, Major Rex's wife, is a civilian employee at Fort Bragg's Civilian Personnel Assistance Center.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)