Like father, like son
August 14, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - As a 20-year-old, Spc. Jerae P. Perez already has 20 years of experience in the U.S. Army.
Jerae was born at Madigan Army Medical Center while his father was stationed at Fort Lewis in 1993. After 20 years, he finds himself back here wearing the same uniform as his father.
On Aug. 5, Sgt. 1st Class Fernando Perez, platoon sergeant, 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, had the privilege to promote his son, Jerae, to specialist at the I Corps deputy commander's office.
Fernando chose the DCG's office because he had served as the driver for the I Corps deputy commander from 1991 to 1994 and remembers his time working at I Corps fondly.
"The first place I took Jerae after he was born was the DCG's office," he said. "The secretaries that work there now were the same ones that worked there then. They remember chasing my son around the office."
"This day was very important to me as this may be the only time that I will promote him while I'm on active duty," Fernando said.
With his father's advice, Jerae decided to join the Army after completing high school. He entered active duty in July 2011.
After completing basic training, Jerae attended Advanced Individual Training where he graduated as an intelligence analyst and received an assignment to 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Fernando, a native of Galveston, Texas, was excited to have his son close to him. They had been separated for 10 years while he was stationed overseas. During those years, Jerae lived in Sacramento, Calif., which he now calls his hometown.
"I only got to see him during the summer from the time he was 9 until he was 19. Him being here has really allowed us to reconnect as father and son," Fernando said.
Fernando said that now that his son is in the military, he realizes why his father couldn't always be around when he was growing up.
"He understands why we often put the military first, because now he's the one cancelling our plans" Fernando said.
Jerae said being stationed with his father has improved their relationship. Whenever Jerae needs professional advice, he always goes to his dad.
"He's a very good soldier. It's his life, it's what he knows, and he is very good at what he does," Jerae said.
Jerae comes from a long line of veterans. He is the fourth generation in his family to join the Army. Jerae's father, grandfather and great-grandfather have all served honorably.
Jerae chose to join the Army, because he grew up in it, he knew about it and his father is part of it. His father's professionalism, knowledge, care for soldiers and a "go-getter" attitude set the example for him to follow.
"If I had to give my son one piece of military advice, it would be never compromise your integrity. If the mission depends on doing the wrong thing, don't do it. Your soldiers and commanders count on you to do what is right," said Fernando.
Fernando said he was surprised when his son informed him that he wanted to join, but as a former Army recruiter, he made sure he was part of the process. He gave him advice on what job to get.
"Basically I wanted to set him up for success and get him something he can use (as a civilian)," Fernando said.
Something Fernando wants his son to take from serving in the military is the discipline.
"You have to have discipline to go to college, for any job. If he has that, then he will always be successful," Fernando said.
Jerae has a three-year contract with the military, but he plans on getting out and furthering his education to eventually become a commissioned officer through the ROTC program.
For now, the two are just happy to be serving together at JBLM.
Fernando said, "(Having my son here with me) is something that I couldn't imagined. As a child, I would take him to the PX with me. I would walk around the base with him as just another son of a soldier, now we walk around the base as two soldiers."