News: Together as a Family
Story by Spc. Matthew H. Oda
There are no greater bonds than the bonds shared with a mother and her children. That certainly holds water with Josh and Kimberly Ramos and their mother Dawn VanHeuveln. Their family has always been close to each other. As Dawn's children got older and more independent, some might think they would start doing their own things in life and start straying from the family. This might be especially true if one of them joined the military; however, that would not be the case for their family.
These three family members joined the Guard within a couple months of each other all becoming part of the same battalion in the Minn. Army National Guard.
"When I was a junior, I had an idea I was going to join the military," said 20-year-old Josh. "My mom was prior Navy and she always wanted me to join the Navy, so I took a look into it but it wasn't really my cup of tea. Then I looked at the Guard and saw they had great opportunities so I decided it was the best choice for me," he said.
The recruiter came to speak to Josh one day but ended up talking to Dawn. She was the first one to join in Sept., 2006. "Me and my sister followed her and joined two months later," said Josh.
Each feels fulfillment from their service even though they all joined for different reasons.
"I joined the service again because I missed the satisfaction of doing good in the world, which makes me feel more complete," said Dawn, 42-years-old, who served in the Navy years ago.
"When I Joined the Guard, I knew one day I was going to get deployed," said 21-year-old Kimberly. "I was okay with that because I looked at a deployment as a new adventure. I want to see things in my life and I want to be able to say I went there, I saw that," she added.
"I want to go to college and study sports management so one day I could open up my own gym or manage one someday. I saw that the Guard would help me go to school and offered great experiences so I signed up," said Josh.
All three of them are all part of the 1-151Field Artillery. Kimberly and Dawn are truck drivers in the 175th Forward Support Company, and Josh is a mechanic in Alpha Battery.
Once they had settled in and became used to life in the National Guard, the call came letting them know they were getting deployed to Kuwait. Being in the same battalion, the three of them got stationed on the same camp doing Convoy Escort Team missions.
"I feel like one of the fortunate ones because I'm able to see two of my children most of the time," said Dawn. "Well when I say most of the time I mean a couple times a month. But that's still more than other Soldiers who have families back home that don't get to see them," she said.
Soldiers in Josh's unit have joked with him about having his mom on the deployment to take care of him.
"A lot of people tell me that I couldn't even leave the states without my mother and that I needed her to come with me to get deployed," said Josh laughing. "But I love having my family here. It's an honor to serve with them, and I just hope we all make it home safely at the same time," he added.
Kimberly loves having her mother here with her because there are some things only a mom can fix.
"Having my family here is almost like a dream come true because I get to be here with them and share this experience with them," said Kimberly. "Whenever I'm having a problem with something only my mom can help me with, I would just go find her," she added. "I always hunt my brother down even when he's sleeping to ask him, 'hey, how was your mission, I wanted to see how you're doing, and I miss you!'"
Having your family with you on a deployment definitely can have a positive impact on Soldiers, but it can also have its drawbacks.
"I love being with my family but I've noticed I get a lot more worried when they're going on a mission," said Dawn. "I know exactly what kind of missions these two are doing and the dangers that come with it, so it makes me worry a lot more than it would if I was back in the states and had no idea what these two did," she added.
Mom isn't the only one that worries when a family member's out on mission.
"There are a lot of times at night when I know they are out on the road and it keeps me up, hoping they will be safe," said Josh. "I always know they will be though, because we have a great team here and I know they'll come home safe," he said.
It was a unique challenge for this family having three of them deploy and leaving the rest at home.
"It's been really hard for my daughter back home," said Dawn. "We try and make her feel better by communicating with her a lot and reassuring her that we love her and we'll be home soon. We try and talk with her on Facebook and on the phone as much as possible. We tell her about all the fun things happening here like the donkeys racing the HUMVEES," she added. "We also use Skype to video chat with her so at least she can see us."
Living conditions and missions are very different compared to the past. Things are be a little easier to bear during this deployment to Kuwait because of technological advancements making it easier to communicate.
"I think we have it really good here compared to past wars like World War II and Vietnam," said Josh. "It's a different era where we don't have to stay in a foxhole for hours- on-end, and sleep in the dirt or cots. Now we get to sleep in beds."
"I like the fact that I can go on the internet and speak to someone like they are right in front of me, unlike the old days where you waited weeks-on-end for a letter," Josh said. I think we have it great here considering the past."
Josh, Dawn, and Kimberly coordinated to go on their R&R together so they can have the entire family together for the holidays.
It will be nice to have the everyday conveniences of life back home as well.
"I look forward to spending time with the rest of my family and the simple things in life we take for granted like not having to go outside to go to the bathroom or shower," said Dawn. "Or being able to go to the refrigerator and grab a nice cold beverage," said Josh smiling.
Having their family together will make it easier for them to return to Kuwait. The feelings of accomplishment and service help them to see the bigger picture.
"I feel if what we do here benefits someone, somehow, someway, then I'm proud to help," said Josh. "If we can help a family from losing someone to come over here, then we'll take that spot so they can stay home with their family because I have my family here."