Father, Son Serve Together
(January 23, 2011)
Army Pfc. Andrew Starkey and his father, Army Spc. Steve Starkey of the Iowa Army National Guard pose for a photo Jan. 6, 2011, while deployed to Afghanistan's Paktia province. Courtesy photo
PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2011 – Most soldiers
who are deployed miss their homes. But for Army Spc.
Steven Starkey and Army Pfc. Andrew Starkey, a large
part of what the word “home” represents is just a
five-minute walk up the hill.
40-year-old mechanic by trade in Council Bluffs,
Iowa, works as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic attached
to Company A, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry
Regiment, which currently falls under the 101st
Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Andrew,
his son, works in Company A's kitchen preparing
breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Both Starkeys are assigned to the Iowa Army
National Guard's Company F, 334th Support Battalion,
out of Red Oak, Iowa.
Both soldiers said they
joined the Guard to serve their country and fulfill
some personal goals.
Steven enlisted in the active-duty Army in 1989 as a heavy
equipment mobile tactical truck wheel mechanic. He was
slated to serve during Operation Desert Storm when personal
issues at home prevented his involvement. He was young and
dealing with a troubled marriage when his chain of command
made the determination to let him remain in the rear as his
unit prepared to support Desert Storm, he said.
“Looking back, I don't feel I was mature enough to handle
the task at hand,” he acknowledged, adding that his brief
service helped him to mature and gave him cause to consider
future opportunities for service.
The events of 9/11
reignited that simmering ambition.
“I felt like I had
left something on the table, an obligation I had left
incomplete” he said.
So almost 15 years after his
initial service, he began the process to rejoin the Army,
eventually serving with the Iowa National Guard. The process
Steven had remarried and had three
additional children -- daughters Ashley and Rachel and
stepson Jon -- when he decided to re-enlist for active duty.
Despite trying three times, the active Army would not accept
his application because he had more than two dependents.
Steven gave up trying for active duty after the third
attempt. Then, in the spring of 2007, he met his daughter's
soccer coach, a staff sergeant in the Iowa National Guard.
The soccer coach informed Steven that the Iowa National
Guard had waivers and programs to allow people in situations
like his to join. A month after speaking with the soccer
coach, he was at the military entrance processing station
swearing in for service.
A year later, Andrew raised
his right hand and made the oath to serve his country, but
he had a different reason: his daughter, Kyra.
in the Iowa Army National Guard has given Andrew a means to
provide health care and child support for Kyra, he said.
“I plan to start a savings account with the money I'm
making [on deployment] to help pay for her college,” he
But joining the Guard came with some
additional, unanticipated benefits for Andrew.
myself grow every day,” he said, “whether or not I enjoy it
all the time.”
Before making his commitment to serve
in the Iowa Guard, Andrew had a “loose-cannon mentality,” as
his father put it. He was an unruly youth who often did not
think before he acted. That was nine months ago. Now, six
months into deployment, Andrew is a much different person.
“He's level-headed and can take criticism constructively
like an adult,” said Steven, who added witnessing this
change has been one of the most rewarding benefits to come
out of being on this deployment together.
sometimes a father has to be a father, regardless of rank,
and stick up for his son.
“It's hard to keep the
fatherly instinct at bay when I see my son getting in
trouble by his boss,” Steven said. “I often have to swallow
my pride and know my place.”
The Starkeys act more
like brothers or best friends when they're together here,
calling each other by their last name and making fun of just
about anything the other says. Though they work at the same
company, the Starkeys still feel as though they could spend
more time together.
As trying as some days may get,
they said, they usually find some time throughout the week
to hang out and unwind together, giving them a chance to
solidify, in a unique way, a bond that can only be made
between a father and son deployed together.
thing that everyone else wants, we have: a family member on
deployment,” Andrew said.
By Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Rasmussen
Task Force Lethal
American Forces Press Service
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