CAMP HENRY, Republic of Korea – One of the challenges of being stationed in Korea can be the long distances between a Soldier and their friends and family. For Spc. Justin Peterson, he knew an assignment in Korea would mean making new friends and working in a different environment, but he was counting on one familiar face being there: his father, Staff Sgt. Galen Peterson.
“When I found out he was coming to Korea too, I said ‘see you there!’” said Staff Sgt. Peterson, an ammunition NCO for the Distribution Management Center, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
Since late 2020, the father and son have both been stationed in Korea, and both serving in units that fall under 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. The duo recently embraced after Spc. Peterson graduated from the Basic Leadership Course on Camp Henry. The graduation ceremony marked the latest chapter in a story of an Army family that began in 2009.
Before he stepped into an Army recruiting station, the elder Peterson had spent most of his life in Lehigh Acres, Florida, and was anxious for a change. But before speaking to a recruiter, he assumed he was ineligible for enlistment.
“I always thought I was too old,” said Staff Sgt. Peterson, who was 40 at the time. “When I found out it was 42, I thought ‘let’s do this!’”
A thirst to see the world was soon answered when the Peterson family moved to Bamburg, Germany for his first assignment. The younger Peterson was 11 at the time, and soon began to imagine himself in an Army uniform.
“I was able to see how the Army works, and all the good things the Army can offer you,” said Spc. Peterson, a Religious Affairs Specialist with 94th Military Police Battalion. “As I was growing up, I thought this is exactly what I wanted to do.”
When Spc. Peterson shipped to Basic Combat Training in 2018, he knew it was the start of seeing less of his family. This separation would not last very long. In 2020, while stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Spc. Peterson saw an opportunity to serve in Korea, where his father had been stationed for several months.
Their first meeting in Korea happened while Spc. Peterson was completing quarantine at Camp Humphreys. Although they had to observe the strict 6-foot social distancing, the reunion was special.
“I spent Christmas in the quarantine yard with him,” said Staff Sgt. Peterson. “When I quarantined I had no one to visit me, so I made sure to drive up every weekend to visit him and make sure he had the necessities.”
While the two Petersons are stationed separately at Camp Humphreys and Camp Henry, they make it a priority to visit each other as much as they can. Every long weekend has meant a bus ride for one of them, bicycle in tow. In Korea they’ve discovered a hobby they never explored together: long bike rides.
“We’re constantly together,” said Staff Sgt. Peterson. “People will see us on our bikes and assume we’re best friends.”
The pair will have more time to spend together, as Staff Sgt. Peterson recently extended his tour and hopes to become an instructor at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Camp Walker.
“I think he would be an awesome instructor,” said Spc. Peterson. “He was able to shape me, I would love to see him shape future leaders.”
Looking toward the future of their Army careers, Staff Sgt. Peterson has a goal for his son.
“Every parent wants their child to be more successful than them,” said Staff Sgt. Peterson. “I want to stand at parade rest in front of him.”