FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, May 8, 2008) -- Sunday morning, most Soldiers going through Initial Entry Training will not have the opportunity to wish their mom a happy Mother's Day, but Pfc. Justina Medina will be an exception.

The 19-year-old Trenton, N.J., native gets to see her mother Janet every day. Both are assigned to Company E, 369th Adjutant General Battalion, as they attend Advanced Individual Training to become human resource specialists for the National Guard.

Mother and daughter hold the same rank, were in the same company during Basic Combat Training and even had the same recruiter -- Justina's father, Janet's husband.

Donning the uniform was something the mother of four had always thought about. When Justina signed on the dotted line, the 39-year-old Janet finally decided.

"I wanted to join when I was younger, but I started a family first," Janet said. "I was waiting for my youngest (a 13-year-old son) to give me the OK. He wasn't ready to let me go all these years.

"Finally the other kids told him, 'It's time to let Mom do something for herself.' That convinced him and he told me, 'It's time to go.' I waited a couple of months and asked him again and he said, 'Yeah, I'm ready for you to go, I promise.'"

From the physical rigors of BCT to the mental challenges of AIT, the Medinas say going through training together has made their mother/daughter bond grow stronger.

"We've always been close; this just brought us even closer together," Justina said.

"She pushed me through everything. If she wasn't here I would have a harder time."

Janet echoed her daughter's sentiments. "I couldn't think of a better person to be (here) with me. If she wasn't here I would have really felt sad and lonely," Janet said. "During basic, when she was having a rough day the drill sergeants would allow her to come up to my bay and we could talk about it. We just kept reminding each other to look at the bigger picture."

Their time together at Fort Jackson has not been all roses. Pitted against each other during pugil training proved to be an adventure -- one they joke about now.

"I beat her up," Justina said.

Janet had a slightly different take on the incident.

"We had just gotten started, I turned my head a little and she hit me with a good shot to the head. Caught me off guard," Janet said. "When she cocked me, she cocked me in the back of the head. I turned around and said, 'What are you doing'' Then she started crying. She felt hurt. Then I felt hurt because she felt hurt about it."

"I thought I was being disrespectful," Justina said. "I thought to myself, I hit my mom, I couldn't believe it. I would never do it again."

Janet hopes that her go-getter attitude rubs off on the Soldiers around her who are young enough to be her sons and daughters -- the way it has on her real daughter and battle buddy.

"I've always taught my kids by example," she said. "It doesn't matter your age. No matter what way your life goes, you can still be somebody, you can still go for your goals."

(Mike A. Glasch writes for the Fort Jackson Leader newspaper.)