6-24 Army

SPECIAL TO THE BANNER Oklahomans Spc. Lynette Mitten, from left, Sgt. 1st Class David Andrews, Pfc. Michael Andrews and Sgt. 1st Class Paul Burden, share some family time during a break from their pre-mobilization training at Camp Gruber. The family members will be deploying together to Iraq later this year.

Special to The Duncan Banner
The Duncan Banner

Soldiers on deployment often carry photos and other mementos to remind them of their loved ones back home. But one Oklahoma Army National Guard family getting set to deploy this fall will have no such occasion to do so.

When Sgt. 1st Class David Andrews, 45, of Enid deploys later this year to Iraq, he will be going overseas with his son, fiancée and cousin.

All are members of the 45th Fires Brigade and are going through pre-mobilization training at the Camp Gruber Training Site.

Once they’re done training at Camp Gruber, they will continue training together at their mobilization station at Fort Hood, Texas, where they will spend 60-90 days before they are deployed downrange.

Andrews is a little apprehensive about him and his family members going overseas, but the steely-eyed Army sergeant still has an air about him from his straight-faced Marine Corps days. He served in the Marines for 12 years before he joined the Army.

“I worry more about them than myself,” he said.

He described the feeling of deploying with his loved ones as “strong.” He said that while he is uneasy, he is also proud and honored by their service.

“We take care of each other,” he said, while looking out across the room at each member of his family. “I’m hoping we’ll get to see each other while we’re there.”

Andrews and his cousin, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Burden, 44, of Bray have been in the military for several years now, but Andrews’ son and fiancée are still new to the military.

Spc. Lynette Mitten, 41, of Enid, is a grandmother whose two-year mark in the Army will come in August. She definitely doesn’t look like a grandmother, especially when she is wearing her full “battle rattle.”

She said she joined the Guard to prove her children wrong, to prove that she “can do this.” Mitten added that her children are very supportive of her decision to join the Guard.

She and Andrews plan to get married after they return from their deployment.

“We feel that is the most appropriate thing,” she said.

“That way, all of the family can be there.” Andrews’ brother is a helicopter pilot on active duty with the Army and is deployed to Honduras, so the marriage plans are on hold until they can all get back together.

Mitten said for now, as a couple, they do everything together and that she is excited about getting the opportunity to deploy to Iraq together.

“I think it’ll be easier knowing they will all be there,” she said.

Burden said the training they are receiving at Camp Gruber is really good and it will prepare them for what they will be doing in Iraq.

“The deployment is something we need to do,” he said. “We’re ready.”

“The training is intense,” said Mitten. “It’s not something you’re going to forget.”

Pfc. Michael Andrews, 19, David’s son, is proud to be a part of the Andrews family legacy.

The young man said the Andrews family history dates all the way back to the days of William Wallace, just like in the movie “Braveheart.”

“It makes me feel good that I can do something for the people back home,” said Michael, who resides in Duncan.

He added, “I feel like if I can stand next to my dad on a deployment, I’m at least doing something right.”

Michael has always been around the military. His uncles and grandparents have all served, and his mom is also serving in the Army.

“Sometimes, I sit back and think, ‘What do normal people do? ’” he quipped. “I don’t know what it’s like to not be near (the military).”

David said that Michael is the fifth generation of Andrews family members to serve in the military.

David said he always knew he was going to join the military before he ever got out of high school.

He said it was his way of giving back to his country for everything he had while growing up.

Michael said his father didn’t push him to join, that wanting to be in the Army was a decision he made all on his own.

“I want to experience as much as I can,” he said.

“It’s a family tradition for all of us,” David added.

Before deploying overseas, Michael will be celebrating his 20th birthday.

“We’re celebrating the last two years in the one coming up,” said his father.

Michael turned 18 while at basic training and 19 during his advanced individual training.

David said that he and Michael are planning to take leave for Michael’s 21st birthday; otherwise, he’ll be spending it in Iraq.

David said he spent his 21st birthday deployed when he was in the Marines.

Not all will be ruined if they don’t get leave, though.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a day off and I’ll sleep,” said Michael.

Burden said the family members who stay back home have the hardest job during a deployment because the soldiers know what they are going to be doing.

The family members, meanwhile, just have to wait for them to return.

“The Guard is a family in the first place,” he said.

Mitten said the family being deployed together is a morale booster.

“We’re all very proud of each other,” she said.

She said her 3-year-old and 5-year-old grandchildren are going to miss her the most.

Burden said Guard has a tremendous support network for families because Guard members generally stay attached to one armory and don’t move around like their active-duty brethren.

Burden has been married for 26 years and has two sons of his own.

He said his wife and children know what to expect because he has been deployed before.

“She would rather see me go over with David than by myself,” he said.

The four look like a family, standing side by side. The men all with short hair, the standard military cut.

The confident and deployment-familiar father and cousin bring their knowledge to the table for the son and new-to-the-military fiancée.

All four stand about the same height.

“We’re soldiers,” Burden said.

“The bond is always there. It’s just a little stronger because we’re family.”

This Week's Circulars