News: Serving is a family business
Story by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., – There is a natural rivalry among brothers; and with brothers in the Navy and Army, Air Force Col. James O’Neal Jr., retired, said football season has been a ruckus time of year for the O’Neal family for nearly three decades.
However, all rivalry was set aside recently to celebrate the hard work of their youngest brother.
Maj. Michael O’Neal, Mobilization Assistance Training chief for the 1-290th Field Artillery Regiment, 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel by his brother, Col. James O’Neal Jr., a retired Air Force officer, from Colorado Springs, Colo., at Camp Atterbury, Ind.
James’s wife, Lori, and Michael’s daughter Bria, also attended the April ceremony.
It was a proud day for the O’Neal family, said James, who also pinned the rank of second lieutenant on his youngest brother in January 1992 after Michael graduated from the Reserve Officer Training Program at Kentucky State University.
“It was an honor for me to do that for him, just as certainly as it is an honor for me to be here for him today,” said James, who served 28 years in the Air Force, following in their father’s, James O’Neal, footsteps.
It was fitting that the promotion occurred in April. In 1986, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger designated April as Month of the Military Child, wanting to honor military kids for their sacrifices and courage. All three of the O’Neal brothers started out as military brats before joining the military themselves.
Three sons, three branches - what better way to pay tribute to their father than to join the service themselves. The family’s middle son Tony O’Neal, a retired chief petty officer, served 24 years in the Navy.
“I think that as children, it was instilled in us to serve our country either as a service member or as good citizens,” James said.
Their father continued that service after he left the Air Force in 1958 by becoming a deputy sheriff in Halifax, N.C.
The brothers weren’t the only ones who followed in their father’s footstep, Michael’s older sister, Lola, became a police officer and his younger sister Jennifer works in agriculture.
“Our father was a good man, he left us a legacy of duty and being civic minding … not only is the military a great profession, but it’s a way to give back to the community,” said Michael, who will be deploying in May as a Liaison Officer for NATO in Afghanistan.
The 205th Infantry Brigade, part of First Army Division East, mobilizes, trains, validates and deploys Reserve Component units to support overseas military operations. Along with Reserve component units, the division’s trainer/mentors prepare and deploy sailors and airmen, along with selected members of the interagency and intergovernmental departments, to provide trained and ready forces across a full-spectrum of operations to regional combatant commanders worldwide.