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Two families, one unit: Father, two sons serve in same unit
By Sgt. Sarah Scully, Staff Writer, Desert Voice, 40th Public Affairs Detachment
Dec 11, 2006 - 7:09:24 PM
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[From left] Spc. Alex Swanston, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Swanston Sr. and Sgt. Andrew Swanston stand together in uniform before deploying together to Kuwait. Courtesy photo submitted to 40th Public Affairs Detachment
Blackanthem Military News, SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Deployed Soldiers often create a family with the men and women they serve beside every day – they don’t usually get the opportunity to see family members while in a combat zone.
 
But three National Guard Soldiers get to have the best of both worlds – their unit family and their natural family.
 
Serving at camps Buehring and Virginia, a father and two sons see each other on a regular basis while stationed with 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment of the Alaska National Guard, supporting Third Army/U.S. Army Central in Kuwait.

“I consider this shared experience with my sons a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s very rewarding as a father,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Swanston Sr., father of Sgt. Andrew Swanston and Spc. Alex Swanston.
 
“None of us ever expected to serve together like this.”

Working in the Kuwaiti desert, the men set aside time to talk about each others’ day and experiences.
 
“We try and make time to catch up – it just makes it easier,” said Alex, a 20-year-old supply specialist.
 
Alex and his 46-year-old father work in the same building at Camp Buehring during different shifts. It’s a bit harder for 26-year-old Andrew to communicate as easily from another camp.
 
But Andrew still gets advice from his father.
 
“He gives me guidance on how to be a better [noncommissioned officer],” said Andrew, an infantry team leader, who got promoted right before deploying to Kuwait. “He’s had a lot of experience.”
 
A former Marine who deployed frequently during his sons’ growing years, Andrew Sr. instilled a respect for America and the military in his sons.
 
And when Sept. 11 happened, each of the men felt a responsibility to serve their country.
 
“After 9/11, I felt I needed to do something rather than talk about it,” said Andrew Sr. “I feel that my sons, through their service, have the same sense of…commitment, and these experiences should carry with them through their lives like it has through mine.”
 
Speaking about virtues such as honor and duty, the Soldiers look at their deployment as an adventure where they can serve their country.
 
“I like the excitement – knowing that every day has a purpose,” said Andrew.
 
“And when all is said and done, we’ll be able to go back home and talk about things that most people would never experience.”
 
With the holidays fast approaching, the family of Soldiers wants to spend more time together – but they know their missions come first.
 
“It’s nothing new to us,” said Andrew Sr.
 
Without the frigid temperatures and several feet of snow, the Swanstons strive to find the holiday spirit thousands of miles away from home.
 
But even if they’re pulled away due to missions, they’ll still be around family.
 
“My teammates become my family – everybody leans on each other,” said Andrew.
 
“For me, that’s the uniqueness about the military.”

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