News: Family celebrates three generations of Army heritage
SAN ANTONIO - More often than not, dad does know best.
Heard around the world in nearly every family, the mantra “my dad made me do it” culminated in a multi-generational military tradition July 3 for the LaMaestra family, when Mario LaMaestra III was promoted to Warrant Officer 4, at the Army North headquarters on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
His father, Mario Jr., and grandfather, Mario Sr., both retired Army warrant officers, attended the ceremony.
With a combined total of more than 84 years of military service, the LaMaestras say they are extremely proud of their Army heritage, though there is some Air Force blue around the edges.
The senior Mario began his military career as an Airman.
Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Pa., he was palling around with four long-time friends and having a few drinks one afternoon when they stumbled into a joint recruiting station. Each ended up signing a commitment statement with the Air Force.
“The blue was an accident,” said Mario Sr.
Although he and his friends had meant to join the Marines, they honored their Air Force obligations.
Several years into his Air Force career, Mario Sr. was sent to Paris, France, where he had the opportunity to serve on the staff of U.S. Army Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, then the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, in 1963. He enjoyed the post so much; he decided to go Army at the first opportunity.
“I was sold,” said Mario Sr., “I wished I had joined the Army.”
His chance presented itself just before leaving Paris. The Army was accepting applications and he took a shot at the warrant officer program. His application was approved and he took the oath. Ten months later, he was in Vietnam.
“I didn't hesitate. I wanted to be in the Army and didn't object going to Vietnam.”
Going green was more purposeful for Mario Jr. His dad made him do it.
“We were not going to put up with him just hanging around the house, eating candy and reading comic books,” joked Mario Sr.
Also born in Philadelphia, Mario Jr., an “Army brat,” traveled extensively with his family, graduating high school in the Panama Canal Zone, where he met his future wife.
Ready for a family, the Army offered support for them and an opportunity for Mario Jr. to progress in his career field.
He enlisted, married his high school sweetheart and the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, Mario III, just prior to their first wedding anniversary. He said he never regretted his decision to enlist in the Army.
“My father showed me that the service was a place that you could succeed if you applied yourself and that service to the nation was honorable,” Mario Jr. said, “despite the times that I grew up in and social turmoil in our country.”
A career in entertainment was top on the list for Mario III, but he chose the Army instead. He said his dad made him do it, but after 19 years, he knows it was the right choice.
“Nobody truly makes someone do something. You make the choice in the end,” said Mario III, a Fort Sheridan, Ill. native. Even if I had been a famous actor or comedian, I am certain the tools and lessons learned from a military career simply cannot compare to a single-track civilian career.”
He said his Army experience has been well rounded. He has learned computer automation, led Soldiers, deployed to austere conditions, and encountered foreign cultures, places and events not accessible to most civilians.
After Mario Jr. enlisted Mario III in 1992 in Heidelberg, Germany; father and son served together at several duty stations.
Twelve years later, Mario Jr. commissioned his son into the warrant officer ranks, again in Heidelberg. The family came together once more for Mario III’s promotion and to celebrate the unplanned-for but happy tradition.
“I could not have asked for anything else,” Mario III said. “It was perfect.”
Date Posted:07.26.2012 16:25
Location:SAN ANTONIO, TX, US
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