As Capt. Charles McPhail kissed his grandmother good-bye and boarded an airplane at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2004, it dawned on him that he was the third generation of Soldiers she had seen off to war.
"Luckily, we all came home to the same place," McPhail said.
Those three generations reunited once again Feb. 16 at the Army Logistics Management College to see McPhail, an ALMC instructor, promoted to major. The last time such a reunion occurred was 10 years earlier when he was commissioned at Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga.
His maternal grandfather, retired Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Jackson, drove 1,400 miles from Clyde, Texas, just to see Charles get promoted.
"I can tell you one thing, this family is proud of our son, we are proud of being American and we will fight to continue that way," Jackson said.
Charles' father, retired Sgt. 1st Class Arthur B. McPhail, and his paternal grandfather retired Maj. Billy McPhail, also traveled from Texas, to support their son in the transition.
"This is the big jump," Billy said, "this is the field-grade."
The World War II and Korean War veteran identifies with his grandson's promotion. He said "love of country" can only explain how his sons would follow the same path because he didn't prompt them.
"We lived around a military post or situation all their lives, and they could not help but be influenced by it."
Charles said it's the pride that comes with being a Soldier.
"I really never thought about doing anything else, I enlisted at 18 years old, I got my degree on Active Duty like my dad and went to OCS," Charles said. "Between my two grandparents and my dad, and my (retired Air Force) step-dad, it's just been around."
For Charles, having a family tradition of military service isn't burdensome. The San Antonio, Texas, native doesn't feel pressure to meet high expectations, rather he views his fathers as a wellspring of wisdom to draw from.
"I've had these guys to look up to, when something came down, or I didn't know how to deal with something, especially as a commander, I turned to my NCOs here and asked questions all the time," Charles said.
His father expressed the positive aspect of Charles becoming an officer from the enlisted ranks and having the influence of NCOs in the family.
"He's the one who has to make the hard decisions, but he's learned that to get the job done he can turn to his NCOs, cause we all pounded that into him from the very get go," Arthur said. "He makes sure his first sergeants are given the power they need to perform the mission."
In spite of the abundant leadership that surrounds him, Charles said he's never had the urge to break away and make his own independent decisions.
"They have never told me what to do, they have taught me the tools that I need and I have actually found myself relying on them more, and their guidance, and history," Charles said.
When he took command and deployed to Iraq, Charles said he found himself drawing on their wisdom more often.
"I relied on their guidance even when I couldn't talk to them and I had the hard decisions to make, I knew they were behind me," he said.
While he served in Iraq, Charles said he worked for a battalion commander who taught him what it meant to be a good leader. With 17 years in the service, Charles is taking that inspiration and setting his goal to become a battalion commander before he retires.
In the meantime, Charles' son, Darren, will decide whether to continue the military bloodline into a fourth generation or break it'
"If you ask him he'll say yes, but he's 13 years old too," Charles said. "They all want to be Soldiers at 13."
Maj. Charles McPhail upholds a long tradition of military service in his family. His father and grandfathers reunited to pin his oakleaves at a promotion ceremony.