By Army Sgt. Thomas Duval
1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2011 – Service members who re-enlist during deployments rarely are fortunate enough to have family join in on their special occasion. Army Spc. Justin Slater is among the lucky few.
On Oct. 15, Slater stood on a constantly shifting gravel road on a balmy Saturday evening here next to his uncle, Michael R. Pandol, a helicopter pilot for a government contractor and retired Army major, to recite the oath.
"I knew I was coming up on my re-enlistment window, and I thought, ‘Why not have my uncle read the oath?’" said Slater, a nodal network system operator with the 176th Signal Company, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. "This is one of the greatest honors of my life."
"I came in the Army as an enlisted soldier, served as a chief warrant officer, I've worn oak leaves, and I have served for over 21 years,” Pandol said. “Our family has a special connection to the uniform, and I couldn't be prouder of my nephew."
Slater said his uncle played a huge role in his decision to join the Army in 2008, and has continued to mentor him since he deployed to southern Afghanistan earlier this year, where Pandol also works.
Pandol, 51, said he was somewhat of a maverick in his day. During his military service, the Key West native excelled as an Apache helicopter pilot with the 229th Attack Helicopter Regiment.
Slater, 21, took a different approach as he joined the Signal Corps.
Regardless of which path Slater chose to serve, his uncle said, he's just excited to keep the family line of military service going.
Pandol said his nephew is just one in a long line of family members to raise his right hand. The Pandol and Slater families have served in the military for more than four generations, he noted.
"I'm proud to be a part of a long family line," Slater said.
The family line currently has soldiers spread throughout Afghanistan, with cousins and nephews in Qalat, Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Pandol said he is very proud of his nephews, cousins and his son, who is serving in Helmand, one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan.
He added that it's the service of those like his son and nephew who choose to serve in the military that gives America the No. 1 fighting force in the world.
Slater said he hopes to follow in his uncle’s footsteps to become a warrant officer and make a career of the Army.