MILWAUKEE -- Bill and Barabara Oestreich, Manitowoc residents, both regret not being able to serve their country when they were younger. But they have turned their tale of a missed opportunity into a family movement.

Two of their sons are currently serving in the Army. A third son and the oldest daughter are juniors at Roncalli High School and they have announced their intentions of enlisting when they become seniors. Their two youngest daughers have not reached high school age yet but they are no strangers to the Future Soldier functions and activities hosted by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Rhoden, an Army recruiter in Manitowoc.

It all started when now Pfc. William Oestreich Jr. was standing by an empty Marine Corps Recruiting office and Rhoden approached him from across a hallway.

"I didn't think about the Army then. My uncle was a Marine and I wanted to do the same," William said. "But the Marines weren't there (at the station) and when I learned about the Army I said, 'Where do I sign''"

William joined in 2008 as an infantryman. He's currently serving in Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division. The day he shipped for Basic Combat Training nearly 30 family members and friends saw him leave.

A week after that going-away event stepbrother Ryan Kiel gave the Army serious consideration. He said he had never thought the Army was for him even though his mother had encouraged him to talk with Rhoden. He's now a private en route to Fort Carson, Colo., to join the 4th Infantry Division as a tank mechanic.

Cole Oestreich said he's aiming to become an Army field artilleryman; and Courtney Kiel nearly broke the tradition by intending to join the Marines, until Ryan convinced her the Army was a better path. Both said they are just waiting to become seniors to formalize their careers.

Bill and Barabara said they encourage their children to join the Army for all the commons reasons such as service to country, money for college and the chance to see the world. But they also feel at home with Rhoden who has guided them through the enlistment process of William and Ryan.

Rhoden's "part of the family," said Bill. "We invite him to our family functions and introduce him as the family recruiter. Some have a family doctor or a family lawyer, we have a family recruiter."

Bill even visits Rhoden's recruiting station to help him out. He'll talk with other parents on the phone and answer questions about what they can expect from the enlistment process.

"I tell (other parents) that this is one of the best opportunities their kids will get and that these guys (Army recruiters) will not steer you away," Bill said.

Rhoden said he's often enlisted pairs of siblings since he started recruiting in 2001. But he's never seen anything like an entire family display such a passion for the Army.

"I can't really explain it besides the fact that they (Bill and Barbara) are patriots and proud to have their kids serve," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16