PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - June 6, 2019, exactly 75 years after Soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, two U.S. Army officers who began their own careers 27 years and one day prior, by commissioning one another, retired from their individual service to the nation just as they started it, together.
Both Col. Bethany L. Lee, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, 9th Mission Support Command, and Lt. Col. Carleton A. Lee, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command J-6, became a part of Army history with a combined total of 54 years, 4 months and 8 days of service to the nation. Now, from the deck of the USS Missouri, where the treaty ending World War II in the Pacific was officially signed, they completed their Army careers.
"It's been a long time since the two of you reported to the cadet command," Brig. Gen. Douglas Anderson, 9th Mission Support Command commanding General said. Both retirees are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Col. Bethany Lee was born at the academy herself, and is one of three sisters, all West Point graduates.
"We were commissioned on the same day, in fact we pinned each others 2nd lieutenant bars on each other, and here we are retiring together today," Bethany said.
The significance of D-Day and retiring on the USS Missouri is, according to Bethany, not lost on her. Her family traces its roots to service to the nation's Army as far back as the Revolutionary War, Civil War and Spanish American War, across her family the service to the nation is likewise peppered into the conflicts of the past century. Her Great-great Uncle Howard was himself one of the heroes who parachuted into St. Mere Eglise as part of his two years of combat during World War II.
"This inspiration of Great-great Uncle Howard inspired my father, who then enlisted at age 17 and served for 27 years, 10 years as a combat engineer with the 82nd Airborne, and another 17 as an Army psychiatrist," Lee said.
The significance of the USS Missouri also is an important facet to the Lee family tree. Lee's grandfather, Col. Arthur J. Christiansen, served as an infantry officer and then a cryptologic officer for many years. According to Lee, he was serving in the Phillippines in 1942 and was a survivor of the Baatan Death March.
These family stories are but a glimpse into the long and illustrious Army family tree of these retirees, family ties that strengthened their fortitude as both continually gave references and appreciation for the family support they had received throughout their careers.
Both career officers also thanked their three children, the next generation.
"I would like to humbly ask forgiveness from and extend my greatest gratitude to my three children, Regan, Brennan, and Kieran, for their support...in this dramatic and circuitous life that we have lived," Bethany said. "They routinely packed up, said good bye to friends ... thank you for your love and support to our continuous service to our nation, from the bottom of my heart."
Carl also thanked his wife, children and family.
"I would like to thank my wife Bethany as my stalwart partner on this journey for this last 27 years and one day, every decision has been a team effort and I couldn't have done it without you," he said. "To the kids, Regan, Brennan and Kieran, you've experienced so much more than kids your age, and one day you will appreciate your globe-trotting upbringing. It wasn't easy, but you are stronger because of it."
With multiple deployments, exercises, trainings, unaccompanied assignments, alternating shift schedules, three births and multiple moves were all part of their the dual military lifestyle, but both acknowledged that despite the challenges, there was much more to their story.
"With all of the hardships over the years we also experienced many joyous and blessed occasions and have forged life-long friendships that turned into ohana, and mentorships that we never could have imagined or orchestrated of our own accord," Bethany said.
Both attributed their strength in family to their resilience. "We went against the grain, following what worked for us as a family rather than what the expected path should have been, (for example) at the 6 year mark I left Active Duty to spend more time with our children," Bethany stated.
Despite leaving Active Duty, she managed to nevertheless continue an illustrious career.
"I encourage you as you venture on in your own life journeys to take time to mentor others, and as they may encounter bumps along their paths, because you never know what significant impact a relatively little act of mentorship or kindness others can have on others individual in life,' she said.
Co-presiding over the ceremony with Anderson was Brig. Gen. Paul F. Fredenburgh III (the third), Director, Command, Control, Communications and Cyber (J6), United States Indo-Pacific Command, who thanked Carl for his service, leadership, sacrifice, and dedication to family.
"It's been a great ride, Bethany and I have been married for 27 years and a day, commissioned for 27 years and seven days, This is all we have ever known, it's going to be weird after today, and I wouldn't have it any other way," Carl said.