News: Uncle re-enlists nephew during Afghanistan deployment
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – When the time comes for a soldier to re-enlist, therefore extending his commitment to serve his country, it’s often a happy and joyous occasion that many choose to enjoy with their families.
For soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, being able to share in this moment with a family member is usually an impossible task.
On a sunny and breezy Afghan Saturday evening in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the impossible became possible and a wish was granted as Spc. Justin Slater, stood tall waiting to repeat the oath of re-enlistment, Oct. 15.
Next to Slater, standing on the constantly shifting gravel road outside of his office on Kandahar Airfield, stood his uncle Michael R. Pandol, a helicopter pilot for a government contractor and retired Army major, ready to recite the oath with his nephew.
“I knew I was coming up on my re-enlistment window and I thought why not have my uncle read the oath,” said Slater, a nodal network system operator, with the 176th Signal Company, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “This is one of the greatest honors of my life.”
“I came in the Army as an enlisted soldier, served as a chief warrant officer, I’ve worn oak leaves and I have served for over 21 years, said Pandol. “Our family has a special connection to the uniform and I couldn’t be prouder of my nephew. “
Slater said his uncle played a huge role in his original decision to join the Army in 2008, and has continued to mentor him since he deployed to Southern Afghanistan earlier this year.
Pandol, 51, was somewhat of a maverick in his day. During his military service the Key West native excelled as an Apache helicopter pilot with the 229th Attack Helicopter Regiment.
Slater, 29, took a different approach as he joined the Signal Corps.
Regardless of which path Slater chose to serve, his uncle says he’s just excited to keep the family line of military service going.
According to Pandol, his nephew, Slater, is just one in a long line of family members to raise his right hand.
The Pandol and Slater family lineage has served in the military for more than four generations.
“I’m proud to be a part of a long family line,” said the 29-year-old Slater.
The family line currently has soldiers spread throughout Afghanistan with cousins and nephews in Qalat, Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Pandol said he is very proud of all his nephews, cousins and his son who is currently serving in Helmand province, one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan.
He added, that it’s the service of the select few like his son and nephew which choose to serve in the military, that helps establish America as the number one fighting force in the world.
Slater said he hopes to follow in his uncles footsteps. He said he wants to make the Army a career and wants to become a warrant officer just like his uncle.