Missouri National Guard
ALBANY, Mo. (1/19/12) - With the most recent enlistment of their youngest son, one northwest Missouri Family serving in the National Guard could all but make up their own squad of artilleryman. One dad and four sons now serve with the 1-129th Field Artillery Battalion, making for some interesting war stories.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Charley (Gene) Ramsey and his wife, Pam, have four of their five children currently wearing the uniform just like their dad.
"I'm awful proud of every one of them," said Charley. "They didn't have to come in, but they did."
"It's awful neat," said Pam. "They're a special group of boys."
The entire family of Soldiers all serve within the same battalion, though they are split between two batteries in Maryville and Albany.
Charley joined the Nebraska National Guard in 1988 and later served in the active-duty Army. He transferred to the Missouri National Guard in 2001 and continues to serve as the readiness noncommissioned officer for Headquarters Battery in Maryville.
In 2005, Army Staff Sgt. Lance Ramsey was the first of Charley's sons to enlist, and serves alongside him in Maryville. His brother, Army Spc. Matthew Sipes, joined in 2006 and is with the Albany unit. Army Spc. Taylor Ramsey signed up in 2009 and serves in Maryville, while Army Pvt. Mark Ramsey, who just enlisted this past fall, will eventually serve with the Albany unit.
The Ramseys know firsthand how children plot their own course in life,
sometimes taking them far from home. However, with the help of the Guard they know at least one weekend a month their brood will be under one roof. Pam said she is thankful for drill weekends because it brings her family back together.
"It's nice because they all come home the same weekend," said Pam. "One
weekend a month we have a family reunion. The benefit is I get them all at home."
Lance holds the distinction as the first son to choose to wear the uniform like his father.
"It did kind of feel like I was carrying the torch," said Lance.
These Soldiers don't consider it to be a negative to have eight other eyes watching over them.
"I feel I have more support than the average Soldier because they have my back," said Lance. "When we do have drill everybody gathers at the house and I think that does a lot for everybody. We always come together to talk at the end of the day."
One potential downfall of having five Citizen-Soldiers serving from the same family is the possibility that all five could be deployed at the same time, whether it be a stateside mission or overseas.
"It's kind of scary," said Pam. "You always worry when people are gone. I
hope that never happens, though it could."
"I sure don't want to go anywhere with them all," joked Charley.
Being responsible for a few hundred Soldiers overseas is one thing, but
looking after four sons is another story. As a father it is understandable how there would be extra weight on Charley's shoulders to keep his boys safe.
"Pam's proud of them all for coming in, but not super excited about everybody going anywhere," said Charley. "She's probably the one that makes the biggest sacrifice to be honest."
Having her husband and children away from home for long periods of time is a sacrifice Pam knows all too well.
Charley deployed to Germany in 2004 for 18 months and Pam was left at home with five kids. Pam said it was tough not having her husband home, as well as the kids' father, but pointed out that Charley was also alone without his family support system.
In 2008 Charley was called up again to serve, this time for a year in Kosovo. However he did have Lance and Matthew by his side.
"I was glad he was there with the boys," said Pam. "They had a good sounding board and it made me feel safer to know he was there and could take care of them."
Pam said the guys bonded while they were deployed and again it brought them closer together.
"They would have a date night in Kosovo," said Pam. "He would take them to the movies and spend time together. They all bonded."
"It was really nice when we were deployed having a brother and step-dad over there," said Matthew. "You always had a little bit of home."
Having been a Citizen-Soldier for the past 24 years, Charley has chosen to make a career out of the military, but from the beginning he has impressed on his sons that he will not pressure them to do the same.
"I've told every one of them, it's your decision," said Charley. "If you do your six years and get out, nobody can fault you for that."
Though it was hard for Charley to keep the National Guard a secret in his own home, he was intentional not to persuade them to join. Nevertheless each son's reason for enlisting share commonalities.
Lance said he never felt coerced by his father to join, but the benefits the National Guard afforded him for his education were clearly spelled out by Charley. Lance knew this was the only way he was going to be able to afford college.
Initially Matthew refused to join the Guard and completed two years of college before enlisting.
"I then realized the benefits I could be getting, and I figured I'd always have these guys in my unit, so I signed up," said Matthew.
Pam recalled Matthew showing up at home one day wanting to talk to Charley.
"I thought something bad happened and he wrecked his car or something," said Pam. "He said he was there to sign up and it just blew me away."
Education was a key factor for Taylor choosing the National Guard, as well.
"Part of it was to pay for college, and the other part was I wanted to serve our country," said Taylor.
Mark also had no intention of following in his dad's footsteps, but the
sticker shock of a college degree prompted him to consider what options he would have as a Citizen-Soldier.
"Everyone always asked me if I would join, and I said 'no'," said Mark. "I was absolutely against it, then senior year came up, and I saw how much college cost, and I said, 'Yep, let's go join the Guard'."
With the day-to-day duties his sons face as Soldiers, Charley says it can be conflicting at times to balance his position as a Soldier and his role as a father.
"It's tough the first time you make them go be in charge of a range or make them go do this or that," said Charley. "I want them to succeed, but I don't want to spoon feed them. I don't want them to feel like the only reason they succeeded is because I did it for them. I want them to do it on their own."
"The National Guard has been good for my sons," said Pam. "It has taught them discipline and responsibility. I think it's a great opportunity for them."
After graduating from Albany High School, Mark will leave in June for his basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He will then get his advanced training at Fort Gordon in Georgia to be completed in November.
"I feel more prepared because of my family," said Mark. "I know what to expect."
Mark plans to attend Northwest Missouri State University beginning January 2013.