SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 19, 2015 -- Deployed accommodations have changed drastically in the last 30 years. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, handwritten letters and rooms filled with payphones were the only ways to communicate with loved ones from home.
“When I went to Desert Storm the first time, we got our phone call home and we were in country almost a week,” said Tech. Sgt. Michial Smith, a 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment technician. “It was a three-minute morale call, and you waited in line for it. I actually got a letter home before that call.”
Spending time away from loved ones during various holidays throughout the year can take a toll on deployed service members. When Michial could make phone calls home, he would not have much to say. Instead he would rather listen to his 5-year-old son talk.
“That was the biggest thing, and he told me about playing with the dog or playing with his toys,” said Michial.
In 1992, Michial chose to put his military career on pause and began driving a truck to support his family.
Years passed by and Michial’s children grew into adults and began families of their own, but the military was still close to his heart. He was proud and loved to serve his country and after seeing his son struggle he wanted to pass the opportunity to him.
Michial's son, Senior Airman Brandon Smith, also an aerospace ground equipment technician in the same deployed unit here as his father, said, “When I was going through dark times in my life and had a dead-end job, three kids and a wife, and nowhere to go, [my dad] came out of nowhere and said you need to talk to a recruiter. [He said] you need to get yourself a trade, and that would be the easiest way to get it. I know you can do it.”
Brandon took his father’s advice and talked to a recruiter. What Michial did not know was his son also talked to the recruiter about him reenlisting in the military.
“We were sitting in a bar having a drink because it was [my son’s] birthday, and that’s when he told me ‘dad, I’m going to be going into the service,’” said Michial. “I said well, you know if I was young enough and I could still get in, I would do it.”
Brandon informed his father that due to serving 10 years on active duty allowed him to reenlist. Michial could not believe what he was hearing. A chapter of his life he thought was closed forever was about to reopen.
Both father and son submitted their paperwork to join the military. Michial was able to retrain from munitions into aerospace ground equipment and was in technical school when he received a phone call from his son.
“’Dad, I’m in basic training,’” said Michial, recalling the phone conversation. “More than that, we’re going to be stationed together, and we’re going to be in the same shop together.”
More years pass by and the father and son duo had the opportunity to deploy together.
Michial said he never thought in a million years he would be able to deploy with his son, let alone spend Father’s Day with him in Southwest Asia. Since they work opposite shifts, both father and son will keep their same work-rest cycles, but they will make time to spend time together on Father’s Day, even if they just sit around and talk.
“This is one of the highlights of my career, being able to be here with [my son],” said Michial.
A father and a son deployed together, spending Father’s Day together is a rare moment, but one both will cherish.
“I understand where he has been, and as a father myself, I have a lot more respect for him now than I ever did and a lot more understanding for him teaching me how he did,” said Brandon. “Above all, I love him to the fullest, and I couldn’t ask for a better father.”