Face of Defense: Father, Son Reunite in Afghanistan
By Army 1st Lt. Andrew B. Adcock
Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2010 It’s not often that a father and son meet in a combat zone, but that’s what happened when Missouri Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Robert W. Pharris reunited with his son, Marine Corps Cpl. Benjamin J. Pharris here Nov. 17.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert W. Pharris, left, greets his son, Marine Cpl. Benjamin J. Pharris, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2010. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Andrew B. Adcock
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The last time the two had seen each other was Christmas 2009, when Cpl. Pharris was home on leave.
Staff Sgt. Pharris now is serving in Afghanistan on his first deployment as a member of the Nangarhar Agri-Business Development Team IV, with Task Force Bastogne.
“We’re one component of rebuilding the Afghan infrastructure. We take graduates from Nangarhar University and work with them as they improve their agricultural and farming skills,” the staff sergeant said.
First enlisting in the Army in 1981, and later in the Army National Guard, Pharris has more than 14 years of service in a variety of assignments. Primarily serving as an infantryman, he also has served as a drill sergeant and recruiter. After leaving military service in 1997 and experiencing an 11-year break, Pharris re-joined the Missouri Army National Guard in 2008 after he learned that an infantry unit was being formed.
“I surprised my son by having him show up at my re-enlistment ceremony. He had no idea I was re-enlisting,” Pharris said.
Pharris’ Marine son, also on his first deployment, is serving at Kandahar Airfield as an individual augmentee supply specialist with the 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, a Mississippi Army National Guard unit that assumed the responsibilities of Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan, Oct. 17.
“As a Marine individual augmentee, I had no idea I was coming to a National Guard unit. It’s been a great experience so far and I want to continue to learn and do well,” the Marine said.
Military tradition runs deep in the Pharris family. In addition to Cpl. Pharris’ father, his mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather served in the military. His great grandfather served in the South Pacific during World War II.
The Marine recounted one of his childhood memories that buoyed his decision to join the military.
“When my mom received an award on the parade field,” he said, “I knew that I would serve. The only question that was left unanswered for quite some time was which service I would join.” Pharris enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2007 after completing high school early.
Pharris said he’s fully supportive of his son’s decision to serve in the military.
“He has done very well and I’m looking forward to his promotion to sergeant,” the father said of his son. “He has continued the family’s military tradition with the same pride in service.”
While deployment is never easy on families, the father and son agree that being together is one of the best things about deploying to a combat zone.
“Like any dad, I worry about my son. I just wish we served in closer proximity to each other,” Pharris said.
“I love it that my dad is over here the same time as I am,” the son said.
The father and son have found effective ways to deal with stress while serving in a combat zone. Both like to exercise during their “down” time, and honing their video-game and card-playing skills.
“I came to Afghanistan to make a tangible difference,” the father said. “Hopefully, 20 years from now, someone will remember an American who was here and be thankful their life is better.”