News: Like father like son
Story by Sgt. Christopher Johnston
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - For two soldiers currently deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, they’re living a life normally reserved for television and movie storylines. Sgt. 1st Class Kevin A. Gardner and Spc. Kevin A. Gardner Jr., both of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, are father and son experiencing Gardner Jr.’s first deployment, together.
Gardner Sr., a maintenance supervisor and Cleveland native, joined the Army Reserves in September 1992 and switched to active duty July 1993.
He recalls being at work and receiving a phone call from his son almost three years ago.
“’Can you come down to the recruiter to help me pick my job?’ I was there in about five minutes,” said the elder Gardner. “I always wanted my son to go to college, but he told me that school was not for him.”
“I had mixed emotions about him joining the Army, but when he graduated from basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., I couldn’t be more proud of my son,” said the elder Gardner.
Their career paths crossed for the first time at Camp Casey, Korea, where Gardner Jr. was ending his rotation in Korea, and his father was beginning his. A year later, they crossed again at Fort Benning, Ga.
“It was the luck of the draw,” said the elder Gardner. “Neither of us requested to be sent to the same unit.”
“People always told me they had never heard of a father and son at the same unit,” said the younger Gardner, an automated logistical specialist and Savannah, Ga., native. “Let alone deploy together.”
However, in June 2012, the father and son team boarded a plane; destination, Kuwait.
Deploying with your father can have its ups and downs. For the younger Gardner, his father is a role model and family support, but sometimes the younger Gardner is the target of a few friendly jests from his peers.
“I hear it all,” said the younger Gardner. “Like, ‘you know your dad is just a phone call away.’ And, ‘if you mess up I’m gonna tell your daddy.’” With an offhanded smile he explains, “There was no getting around that, but my dad isn’t always watching over my shoulder.”
“I try not to overdo it,” said the elder Gardner. “I try to let him be his own man, allow him to experience life and the Army on his own.”
Although the father and son duo give each other their space, there has always been friendly family competition between them, whether out on the basketball court, or taking the Army Physical Fitness Test.
“At the moment, I am currently the PT (Physical Training) King,” said the younger Gardner.
They looked at each other with identical smiles, “My son can run faster than me, but I don’t know about out doing me in PT.”
During the 203rd BSB patch ceremony at Camp Buehring, the younger Gardner received his patch from his father.
“This isn’t the only thing you are gonna pin on me,” the younger Gardner said as he plans to attend next month’s promotion board to get promoted to sergeant.
“I couldn’t tell you how proud that made me feel,” said the elder Gardner. “Knowing he was in it for the long haul.”
With the elder Gardner approaching retirement, the family military torch will soon be handed over to his son.
“I love my son, and I know he loves me,” said the elder Gardner. “I am experiencing something a lot of fathers dream of. They wish they were there to see their son grow and become a man. I am here experiencing it.”