FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines - U.S. Army Soldier Pfc. Jessica Ramelb embraced her mom prior to her promotion ceremony to the rank of specialist during Salaknib 2022 at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, Philippines on March 11, 2022.
Soldiers getting promoted during exercises or deployments is a typical occurrence in the U.S. Army, however, it is not often that a moment like this comes together.
The last time Ramelb, a unit supply specialist assigned to Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Division Artillery, 25th Infantry Division, hugged her mom was nearly five years ago.
“My dad and I went to the United States to experience the American dream,” she said, with the hope of bettering the lives of our family through opportunity.
The duo immigrated to Hawaii following an immigration visa petition from her grandmother, a process that her father eagerly awaited to be approved for ten years.
The move was meant to reunite the family and be a start of a new journey. However, her mother’s petition was put on hold when her petitioner, Ramelb’s grandfather, passed away.
Although separated by distance and time zones, Ramelb maintained constant communication with her mother, who remained in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, video chatting and texting nearly every day.
Ramelb has been acting as a translator while in the Philippines, embodying the mission of Salaknib, which aims to increase partnership and interoperability between members of the U.S. Army and the Philippine Army.
“When I found out we were coming here I was very excited, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to see my mom,” said Ramelb.
Throughout the exercise she had been chatting with her mom, telling her how it felt to return as a U.S. Soldier to the country she grew up in.
Her mom — who was hesitant about her only child joining the military — never misses an opportunity to tell her daughter how proud she is of her accomplishments since moving to the United States.
“She always tells me she’s very proud of me every time we end a call,” said Ramelb.
Although Ramelb’s mother lives in the northern part of the country, she made nine-hour drive without hesitation and the long-awaited reunion brought both parties to tears.
“I was very excited to see my daughter,” said Elizabeth Ramelb Rojas. “It was the very first time I’d seen her in nearly five years. I am proud and very proud that she ranked up to specialist.”
The reunion was Ramelb's highlight of Salaknib 2022 thus far, and an intimate experience for those who witnessed the promotion ceremony and the reunion of mother and daughter.
Ramelb, now donning a specialist patch on her chest and hat, embraced her mom following the ceremony and said goodbye, yet again, hoping that this time they would be reunited much sooner.
Salaknib is an annual Philippine Army-led, U.S. Army Pacific sponsored bilateral exercise designed to enhance U.S and Philippine Army capacity and interoperability across the spectrum of military operations, while also strengthening the ties between the two long standing partner nations.