JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Deploying to a combat zone often means spending time away from family and loved ones.

But for one father-son pair here, deployment meant seeing a lot more of one another.

"Since we've been here, I've seen him more in the last six months than I've seen him in the last two years," said Staff Sgt. Steven W. Kemper about his son, Spc. Randy C. Kemper.

The father and son deployed with different units to different camps in Iraq; Steven deployed to Camp Victory with the 145th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, of Coleman, Fla., and Randy to Joint Base Balad with the 356th Quartermaster Company, of Orlando, Fla.

Yet they both managed to spend nearly six-months of their tour together.
Steven and his son first met up in Iraq in December over the holiday for a short visit. Two weeks later, however, Steven was permanently assigned to Joint Base Balad, where his unit has a small detachment of Soldiers.

Since then, Steven, a resident of Coleman, Fla., and Randy, a resident of Orlando, Fla., said they've managed to see quite a bit of each other - spending mealtimes together, participating in pool tournaments at the recreation center and working on a model 1932 Ford Phantom.

At home, Steven and his son often work on vehicles. Since the deployment, Steven said his son has become much more mechanically adept, which has created a bit of "role-reversal" for the two.

"He was always having to call me at home - 'Dad, something's wrong with the truck,'" Steven said. "Over here I call him - 'come fix the generator.'"

Steven said when he found out his son was deploying to a combat zone he wasn't too worried.

"We're a team," Steven said, noting that his other son is also in the military and deployed to JBB in 2007 and 2008.

"It's a military family," said Randy, who was inspired to join the military by the service of his grandfather, father and brother.
"I've always wanted to join the military because of my father," Randy said. "He's my hero. I respect him greatly."

Both father and son said they've enjoyed the last six months together.

"It's a one of a kind experience," Randy said.

"We've gotten closer," Steven said.

Steven said in his 28 years of military service - 18 of which he spent in the Navy - he visited to a lot of places, though there are many places he's simply forgotten about.

"I remember the Navy times," Steven said. "I'd go out on a ship and be gone for six to eight months. I'd come back and forget about it. This' I'll never forget about this. Family memories always last."