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Face of Defense: Fathers, Sons Serve Together in Iraq

By Spc. Christopher Smith, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2007 – Few U.S. troops have the opportunity to deploy with their loved ones, but soldiers of 325th Combat Support Hospital, a unit from Independence, Mo., currently at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, have two such family relationships within their unit.

Maj. David Clark and his son, Sgt. Michael Clark, both natives of Manchester, Conn., deployed to Iraq together with the 325th CSH. The Clark family has a long tradition of military service stretching over three generations. This deployment will mark their second tour together, the first being a 10-month deployment to Kuwait with the 405th Field Hospital, a unit from Connecticut.

Sergeant Clark expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve alongside his father during both deployments and recommended that others take advantage of the chance to deploy with family.

“It was nice having your father with you when you had a day off. He is one of the main reasons why I went on this deployment. We are always there for each other,” the younger Clark said. “If soldiers have the chance, they should go for it. There’s nothing else like it.”

Sergeant Clark was introduced to the military lifestyle as a child and decided to enlist in April 2000, directly following graduation from high school. He said his father’s influence sparked his desire to join the military service as an operating room specialist.

“I’m glad he has chosen to take his career path at a younger age, and am very proud of what he does and where he wants to go in his life,” the elder Clark said.

Major Clark did not serve during the Vietnam War, which partially fueled his decision to join the Army in May 1987. “A lot of my peers were selected to go. Later, I felt the need to give something back,” he said.

During Vietnam, Major Clark felt an obligation to his family that precluded him from joining the military, so he postponed his desire to serve until nearly 10 years later, he said.

While the Clarks’ influence to join the military came from father to son, the roles were reversed in the father-son team of Army 1st Lt. Robert Hafner and his father, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jamie Turnham, of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15. Hafner and Turnham are from Independence, Mo.

Hafner enlisted in the Army in February 1995 as a junior in high school. He later convinced his father to join the Navy in November 1997 by telling him of the unique opportunities and experiences in the military.

Hafner and his father also have strong family ties to military service, with multiple other family members serving in the armed forces. Hafner’s brother and uncle served in the Army, and both of Turnham’s older brothers served in the Navy.

On this, their first deployment together, they serve side by side by mere coincidence. Both father and son are deployed to Al Asad for the same duration. “This deployment has provided the opportunity for him and me to spend a little more time together,” Turnham said.

Hafner said he looks forward to passing on the tradition of military service to a new family member. Hafner and his wife expect their first child in January.

(Army Spc. Christopher Smith is assigned to Task Force 325.)

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