Soldiers keep up the family business
November 16, 2008
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - There are as many father and son businesses as there are professions - movers, roofers, landscapers and even junkyard men have proudly tacked on "and Son" to their names.
While the Army is not likely to be renamed "and Sons" anytime soon, sometimes soldiering is the family business.
One father and son team recently deployed to Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division.
"It's a cool experience, that me and my father will be at war at the same time," said Pvt. Rick Mateus, D Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment.
"How many fathers and sons can say they went to a war zone together'" agreed his father, Maj. Norm Lawrence, deputy G2 for the 25th Infantry Division Headquarters.
Deployments aren't new to this family, though. Lawrence has deployed to Afghanistan twice, and this will be his second deployment to Iraq. However, this deployment is definitely different for Sandra Lawrence, wife to Norm and mother to Rick.
"I have mixed emotions about my son going off to war," she said. "On one hand, I'm proud of him. On the other hand, it was really tough seeing him get on the bus for the airplane and knowing he wasn't just going to a soccer game."
The major, a proud father of his Soldier, is also a parent who worries about his son.
"It's special having my son follow in my footsteps, kind of staying in the family business," he added.
"At the same time, being a Soldier in the Army is a serious job and people get hurt," Lawrence said. "But if I'm not willing to see my son go to war, then I shouldn't be going either."
Lawrence joined the Army because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
"I was 17 and not going to college," he said. "My father was a 30-year veteran, and my brother was in the Army."
After he enlisted, he took advantage of the officer training course program to become the leader he is today.
For Sandra, her husband has always been a Soldier, but her son will always be her son.
The young private who used to wear his dad's uniform is proud to wear his own uniform today and to have the opportunity to serve.
"My dad's been a big role model in my life," Mateus said. "As a (military) brat, I got to see the things he's done and the places he's been. Now I get to do it."
As gung ho as all infantrymen tend to be, Mateus decided to enlist in the infantry, because he feels it is the backbone of the Army. He plans to change jobs as his career progresses.
The pair getting stationed in Hawaii at the same time was a surprise to everyone. Lawrence had chosen Hawaii after attending the command group officers course, and Mateus found out his duty station while at basic training.
"It's ironic that (my son) gets stationed here in Hawaii, like a cat you try to get rid of that just keeps coming back home," said Sandra jokingly.
Overall, the family is glad to be near each other at home and on the battlefield.
"Rick succeeds in everything he does," said the major, who intends to see Mateus a couple times while they're deployed. "The best thing about him being close by is we can see him succeed, and we can be here if he has problems."
Father and son are both devoted to the Army.
"I love what I do," said Lawrence. "I love saluting the flag every morning. I get paid and enjoy my job every day. Not many people can say that."
Mateus agreed, saying it feels good to put on the uniform and knowing that people appreciate what the Army does for our country.
Still, age and experience show up in their separate outlooks. The young Soldier looks forward to having some fun in the infantry.
"The infantry is the only way to serve, the only way you can make a change on the ground," said Mateus.
The major has a broader outlook on the Army.
"Five years ago I would have said the same thing," Lawrence said. "Today, I realize it's about combat multipliers like combat engineers and civil affairs people. The infantry is a good way to go at the beginning of your career because it gives you a base of experience."
Whether at the beginning of their career or toward the end, both say they will continue to do what they love until they don't enjoy it anymore.