By Ray KozakewiczJune 26, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (June 26) --, Many brothers and sisters often experience natural rivalries, jealously and disagreements growing up and even want to pursue different career and education paths.
This is not the case for Pfc. José Perez and his sister Pfc. Omega Perez. Not only did the siblings join the U.S. Army 246th Quartermaster Reserve Company in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 17, 2012, they were recently in back-to-back classes at the Joint Mortuary Affairs Center at Fort Lee.
"He (José) decided first to join the Army," said Omega Perez, who is about two years older than her brother. "After doing a lot of research online, he came to me and said, 'Hey, what about joining the Army together?'"
At first, she was unsure about enlisting in the Army Reserve and talked with her brother about what he had learned. "But it came to me pretty quickly. He's my brother, and I want to be with him all the time. Why not? Let's do it," she said.
Joining the military is a family tradition, José said. "My older brother was in the Army in communications."
They also have two aunts who are officers and a pair of uncles in the Air Force.
"My grandpa was in the Army too," Omega added.
Prior to joining the reserves, Omega and José Perez were in the Civil Air Patrol as cadets and she was in the patrol's color guard.
"I always loved the work of the military. They do so much," she said.
After their decision to join, they visited the Army recruiting office, together, of course, to find out more about career opportunities. "After we took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery,) our scores helped us decide on mortuary affairs," Omega Perez said.
"I wanted to be able to help people," Omega said. "This came up high on our scores and caught my attention, especially the forensics part.
"First, I wanted human resources," said Jose Perez. "But when I found out the unit for human resources was too far from our home, I told Omega that in mortuary affairs we can be together at home. We can do basic training together and then attend mortuary affairs school."
Their plan to do everything together, however, was sidetracked. Omega Perez received her orders first for basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., so she had about a two-month head start on her brother.
"I wanted to be with her and take care of her, but we were separated for awhile," he said.
After basic training, she came to Fort Lee JMAC in late April for her seven weeks of classes. Her brother began basic training in early April, but they kept in touch. They were reunited in early June when José arrived at the JMAC.
They have no regrets on their career choice.
Omega said she has been humbled by her experiences with mortuary affairs.
"This is an honorable field. I have more respect as a person, and for deceased military members. They were just like me. I am doing this for their families to help them heal as soon as possible," she noted.
She has shared all her day-to-day experiences with her brother -- JMAC here, training in Richmond at the morgue and her one-week at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
"I just started -- June 11-- so she's way ahead of me. It was rough the first week but Omega gave me great support for our time together here," he said.
She graduated from JMAC June 21 and returned home, but will keep close tabs on her brother. "I will be here six more weeks alone with my other buddies. It's not the same as having her here for support," José said.
When they both are back in Puerto Rico, they plan to join ROTC at the University of Puerto Rico. And, they plan to enlist in the regular Army with a goal of becoming officers in mortuary affairs -- together.