by Eric Gardner, Guest Contributor
The term family business has a menagerie of feelings and definitions depending upon who you ask. I prefer the term “calling” instead of “business,” since it casts a truer light upon my unique family past.
In the broad categories which define roles associated in our military culture I’ve held many of them.
I’ve worn these roles with pride. With more than 40 years of life vested in this unique and sometimes challenging community, I can say unequivocally I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Service is a very dear ideal in my family. While I can trace my roots back to the American Revolution, I have had a constant family member in active service through WWI, WWII, Japan’s Occupation, the Cold War, and the Global War on Terror. My wife is also a third generation military member.
This family calling has given us a shared outlook and understanding on what is truly important in life.
Even with such a rich family history of military service my parents never forced a career in the Army upon me. Growing up in the ’80s I was a huge fan of the “G.I. Joe” cartoon and shows like “The A-Team” and “MacGyver.” While other children my age saw these larger than life personas as too fantastic to be true, I knew the exact opposite.
As a child I could say that I’d met the proverbial steely eyes, barrel chested freedom fighter on several occasions. In “G.I. Joe,” Duke, Lady Jay and Roadblock would display the moral courage to take a stand against something they felt was wrong. I could see the same exhibition of character by walking into my father’s office on any given day and witness the towering soldiers doing the exact same thing.
This introduction into my family calling was accented more when units would hold their organizational days. These family-oriented events always showcased the tools of the trade to loved ones so they could get a better understanding of what their service member did.
Imagine seeing every Hollywood prop in real life and understanding that the soldier standing in front of you was just as awesome as any character that was on the big screen; it clearly made a lasting impression.
Before my elementary school years were over I understood how camouflage worked, possessed a loose understanding of how many different weapon systems our service men and women were tasked to employ and a firm respect for the work that each of them did.
I have wonderful memories of wearing face paint, dressed in my pint-sized fatigues and patrolling our military quarters with my sister in tow on a mission to find a lost G.I. Joe somewhere in the hedge. A smile always comes to mind when I think back to having my father introduce me to the challenges of obstacle courses and learned how stations like the gut buster and the weaver vexed the men and women under his command. Whether it was climbing on Humvees and tanks or checking out the static displays of the utility and attack helicopters, I saw the world of the military as a constant adventure.
On the flip side there were times when the military lifestyle was negative. The moves, training and deployments, and constantly reinventing yourself are challenges we can all relate to. However, with each of these, one thing made it all possible; family. My mother and father always put us first — within reason of course.
Even in the tough times we understood that friends and homes may change but our family would always be there.
When I went off to college my future world was a blank canvas to explore. Even with an endless array of life options, the most fulfilling was in my R.O.T.C. program which lead to my commissioning in the Army as an infantry officer. The same branch my great grandfather was in during WWI and my father was during his 30-year career. I never viewed the unique exposure to the Army as some sort of manipulation to join. Instead it allowed me to make the best decision I could about my future.
My tour of duty as a service member with the Army lasted eight and a half years. As I transitioned to the role of spouse my love for the military way of life didn’t change. With my own children now seeing the nonstop adventure this lifestyle holds they can make their own decisions when they enter the workforce to see if the military is right for them.
Regardless of their choice they will know that within their family were men and women who were willing to risk everything to ensure they would be afforded the same chance at a wonderful future they had been given.
Did you follow your parent and join the Army or other branch of service? Tell us your family of military service story in the comments section.
Eric Gardner was raised in a military family and lived around the world. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer. Since the end of his wartime service he has shifted gears and is now a stay-at-home father. In his role as an active duty Army spouse, he has become an author. As the creator of the XIII Legion Series he has enjoyed great success, and enjoys meeting other entrepreneurial spouses as well as fellow authors. You can see more from Eric Gardner at his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thirteenthlegion.series, and http://www.facebook.com/XIIILGN or follow him via Twitter @13thLegion.