News: Stars align for Soler reunification
Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A little boy follows his father around an Army hangar, meeting crew chief members and climbing on Apache and Huey helicopters as a way to be a part of his dad’s world.
Now, more than 20 years later, the roles have reversed as the father, a government contractor with the state department, follows his son, now a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter pilot deployed with Task Force Raptor.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Victor Antonio Soler reunited with his father, Victor A. Soler, after three years of separation due to scheduling conflicts of missions and deployments.
The stars aligned in Afghanistan a couple weeks before Father’s Day for Victor A. Soler, currently working out of Kabul, to work a one-for-one swap with another UH-1 Huey helicopter mechanic in Kandahar so he could be with his son.
“I’m glad that they (the Army) sent him down here this close to Kabul so that I could be with him for a while,” Victor A Soler said.
During their time together, the Soler duo spent every minute together, enjoying everything from touring the flight lines to watching movies, drinking coffee and reminiscing.
“It’s been about 16 years since we’ve got to do this,”CW2 Soler said as he looked at his dad.
“It’s been way too long,” Victor A. Soler replied.
The senior Soler is a Vietnam veteran who eventually retired as an Aviation first sergeant, settling in Enterprise, Alabama. His son followed him into the military in 1999 but started on a different path as an Airman before transferring over to the Army.
“It surprised me that he went into the Air Force, because he knew how the Army was,” Victor A. Soler said as he chuckled. “He spent 10 years in the Air Force and then switched over as a pilot. I was extremely proud of him.”
His father’s push for his son to reach for the stars prompted, at the time technical sergeant Soler, to put in an Aviation warrant officer application.
“In 2007, it was Christmas and I was back home. My dad was home on break and I asked him ‘how come you never put in an (Aviation) packet?’ He said if he was me, he’d put it in and if it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be,” CW2 Soler said.
After watching his son deploy to Iraq in 2003, Victor A. Soler missed the military atmosphere so decided to begin his new career as a government contractor, spending a large part of his time overseas. But that never stopped him from being there for his son’s military milestones.
“Today is June 6, so it was six years ago today that he came home and pinned me with my WO1 (warrant officer 1). He came on his non-break time, so it felt great to have him there to support me,” CW2 Soler said while hanging out on the flight line with his father. “It’s pretty unique to be here together six years later.”
The last time that father and son stood in the same spot was in a bunker in Kirkuk, Iraq; however, it was four years apart. Victor A. Soler entered a bunker the bunker in 2007 to see “Victor Soler was here” written on the wall. He added “so was dad.”
Even with the infrequent meetings between father and son, Victor A. Soler’s advice and impact in his son’s life is consistent.
“I told him to treat people how you want to be treated, and listen to your crew chiefs,” Victor A. Soler stated.
“They (CW2 Soler’s crew chiefs) all know my dad was a crew chief, so they tell me I have to watch it or they’ll tell on me to my dad if I do something bad,” CW2 Soler added. “My dad always told me to stay positive no matter how bad of a day you’re having.”
The father got to watch his son in action as he flew an American flag around the base in his Black Hawk, and afterwards they shared in a special military moment of folding it together.
Little did Victor A. Soler know that his son would present it to him during a dinner at the end of their time together.
“My dad has never seen me fly until he came out here, so that was great,” CW2 Soler said. “The flag itself means a lot. This one has been on every mission with me, and he’ll be able to take it back home.”