CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT — One of the proudest moments for a parent is when their child decides to follow in their footsteps.
For Master Sgt. Kendall Hodge, a Logistics noncommissioned officer in the 111th Engineer Brigade, a thought that was once far-fetched has now become a reality. Spc. Emilee Richards, Hodge's daughter, is currently a unit supply specialist in the 2nd General Support Battalion, 104th Aviation Regiment, West Virginia Army National Guard.
“I did not think either one of my children would join the military,” said Hodge. “In hindsight, it’s great that she joined, it offers a lot of opportunities and makes me very proud.”
Not only did she join the military, but within her first year of being a Soldier she was deployed to the Central Command Area of Operations in Support of Operation Spartan Shield. Richards' deployment coincidentally happened to be at the same time, and to the same location, as her father.
“Seeing my dad in Kuwait for the first time was awesome,” said Richards. “It’s nice to have someone else to talk you. We go to dinner, hang out and watch TV, get ice cream together, it’s almost like being back home – except hotter and dustier.”
During their time reunited in Kuwait, they don’t go a single day without seeing each other. They both agreed that things just feel right again.
Until the next goodbye, which is right around the corner, they will soak up as much of this experience as possible and enjoy each other’s company.
“Telling her goodbye the first time was harder than this next goodbye will be,” said Hodge. “She is already done and safe, so I’m not going to have to worry anymore. I am going to miss not being able to see her whenever I want to though.”
This once in a lifetime opportunity of Hodge being deployed as the same time as his daughter would not have been possible if she did not follow in his footsteps – which he thought would never happen – but Richards had other plans.
However, Richards’ path to joining the West Virginia Army National Guard was not the traditional path.
“I never thought too much about joining the military actually, but also did not really know what I was going to do after high school,” said Richards. “I realized I could get college paid for by joining the National Guard and also serve my state and country so I was like ‘why not?’”
For Richards entire life her father has been in the military, so she was constantly involved in the National Guard family.
Hodge, who joined in 1992, has been on three deployments to three different countries. In 2003 he deployed to Iraq, in 2010 he deployed to Afghanistan and now in 2021 he is in Kuwait.
But according to Hodge, being deployed to the same country as his daughter has been the most unique of them all.
“This was completely unexpected. She found out she was going to deploy after the 111th found out and then she ended up deploying before we even starting pre-mobilization training,” said Hodge. “It has been a great experience crossing paths with her here though. It has felt like a piece of home and I felt relieved that she was safe.”
Richards’ first deployment has certainly been a memorable one. While being in an aviation unit allows for distinctive opportunities, even she did not know what was in store for her while being deployed.
“I had no clue that I would be going on multiple road trips, but in a helicopter, while here,” said Richards. “I traveled all around Kuwait, as well as trips to Jordan and Iraq.”
Richards said that she would not mind another deployment down the road, but nothing will beat the experience of being deployed to the same country at the same time as her dad.
To all of the fathers, both at home and serving abroad, on behalf of the 111th Engineer Brigade, we want to wish you a Happy Father’s Day and thank you for everything you do!