All in the family: Soldiers follow in their family's military footsteps
November 19, 2013
- November is Month of the Military Family
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (Nov. 19, 2013) -- Cameron Mayfield is only 8 years old, but he knows what he wants to be when he grows up.
"A Soldier," said the third-grader at Grafenwoehr Elementary School. "Because of my dad."
And while 8 might seem too young to have your life planned out, according to Sgt. Grit Bennett, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), "when you know, you know."
Bennett, like Mayfield and countless Soldiers currently serving in the Army, being a Soldier was all they ever wanted to do. Many proudly followed in the footsteps of family members to achieve this lifelong ambition.
For Bennett, it was his uncle's Ranger Battalion graduation in 1984 that tipped the scales.
"They were big and green and I was in awe," said Bennett.
While most little boys don capes and idolize superheroes, for the then 5-year-old Bennett, seeing those Rangers solidified the image of a true American hero.
"I wouldn't wear anything that wasn't camouflaged after that," he said. "And I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up."
Fellow 173rd IBCT Soldier Spc. Tyler Bolasky also dreamed of joining the Army at a young age.
For him, the defining moment was the day his older brother picked him up from elementary school in uniform.
"All of the kids thought he was so cool because he was a Soldier," said Bolasky. "So I wanted to be a Soldier."
Bolasky followed his lead and enlisted right after his high school graduation.
He comes from a long line of military -- grandparents, uncles, cousins and siblings -- so he knew what to expect going in.
"Being a Soldier was the most respected profession you could be in my childhood," said Bolasky. "And I heard a lot of stories; I knew the good and the bad."
Likewise, Maraleigh Randle, a senior at Vilseck High School, is already prepared for life in the military.
"Since I was born I've always been a military child," said Randle. "I know what the life is like because I've lived it. It won't be a shock for me."
Randle will continue her education with a ROTC scholarship next year, and soon thereafter join the Army as an officer. The plan also includes law school and a career in international relations.
"The Army is a good fit for me," she said. "The military is our norm."
November is Month of the Military Family and a time to celebrate the unique bond found only in the military. With frequent deployments and rapid changes in duty stations, military families are often in constant flux.
The key to survival, said Bennett, is support.
"It's means a lot because my entire family supports me and I support them," he said. "They suffer in their own way, just as much as I do, and it draws us all closer together."
Randle shared Bennett's sentiment about family.
"My family is really strong, we can get through anything," she said. "We believe we're serving a higher purpose."
Randle said following in the footsteps of her parents will allow her to do what she loves.
"I really believe in defending our country just like my family has in their own way," said Randle. "We have the greatest country in the world and we all want to make it a better place."
For Bolasky, being a Soldier has also strengthened those family ties. He owes his career to the footsteps his brother laid before him.
"When I was young he gave me some advice: 'Anything worth having in life you have to fight for and fight for it hard.' And that's what I'm doing."