Father, son serve together in Iraq
June 24, 2009
BAGHDAD - This Father's day weekend has special meaning for Maj. Benjamin Rex. Rex, a native of Albion, Ind., has the unique opportunity to serve alongside with his son Pfc. Jeromy Bruce Rex during his deployment to Iraq. Both serve together with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
What makes this deployment even more special for the elder Rex is that his son is serving in the same company as he did during Operation Desert Shield/Storm back in the early 90's, when he was an enlisted infantryman. However, due to that deployment, Maj. Rex missed Jeromy's birth.
Now serving as a primary staff officer in the Panther brigade's headquarters company, Maj. Rex is proud to see his son volunteered to serve along side with him.
"Having my son follow in my footsteps to serve in the Panther Brigade is one of those rare legacy things you can't help but to be proud of," said the father of three. "I never pushed the military as a career on my children, so knowing that he volunteered to be a Soldier, a third-generation infantryman and Paratrooper, and that he wanted to share a deployment with his dad has been pretty cool."
"Having him end up in the exact same company and platoon where I started my career 22 years ago adds even more to the legacy," he added.
For 18-year-old Jeromy, the chance to serve with his father during a deployment is an experience he cherishes and knows will bring them closer together.
"It's been really great having him here because he encourages me to do better. I'm just really glad to share this experience with him," said Pfc. Rex. "I feel it's going to bring us closer as father and son, and hopefully someday after he gets out of the military, I can step up and fill his huge shoes."
"It's also quite funny when people who know my dad see me. The usual response is "Hey, it's Little Rex," he added.
Like most fathers, Maj. Rex wants to see his son as often as he can. But the experienced Paratrooper knows to keep his distance so his son can focus on the mission, especially knowing the dangers of serving as an airborne infantryman in a combat environment.
"It's challenging to be a father who wants to see his son on occasion, while also trying to keep my distance so he can prove himself without me around," said Maj. Rex. "Knowing the dangers of the combat environment is another challenge, but I am reassured by the fact that he is surrounded by experienced Paratroopers."
For a short time, both father and son were based together in Baghdad. But with the June 30 deadline to pull combat forces out of Iraq's urban areas, Jeromy's unit had to move to the outskirts of the city in order to comply with the U.S. - Iraq security agreement.
Military service is nothing new in the Rex family. Maj. Rex's father served in the famed 101st Airborne Division in the 1960s.
Rex's two older children Tabitha and Brandon are both students at Ball State University. Brandon is currently enrolled in the ROTC program seeking to follow his father's footsteps himself by being a commissioned officer. Kelly Rex, Maj. Rex's wife and Jeromy's mother, is a civilian employee at Fort Bragg's Civilian Personnel Assistance Center.