Marine Father, Son Serve Together in Iraq

Maj. Peter D. Charboneau is a busy man.

The communications and electronics officer for Marine Air Control Group 28 (Reinforced) isn’t just in charge of overseeing the upgrade of fiber optic lines, telephone switches and data servers around this former Iraqi air base. He’s also responsible, to the best of his abilities, for keeping an eye on one Marine who’s not even part of his unit–his youngest son, Joe.

After graduating from high school in Quantico, Va., in 2002, Joe and his older brother Pete joined the Corps following their father’s footsteps. They enlisted under the ‘buddy program’ and reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., together, graduating in January 2003.

Elder by a year, Pete is a lance corporal serving with Headquarters and Support Battalion’s Brig Company aboard Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Joe, also a lance corporal, serves as a helicopter mechanic with Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 from Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., and is here on his first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I’m closer to him here than I am back in North Carolina,” said Charboneau. “The beauty of it is that he works nights. We meet in the morning and have breakfast.”

According to Charboneau, he was preparing to leave Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., and transfer to Marine Corps Base, Quantico, when he heard Joe was deploying to Iraq. He immediately asked for a modification to his reporting date to be able to come here and be near his son. Pete, trying to be near his father and brother, volunteered to transfer temporarily to 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, the unit in charge of protecting this air base.

“I pushed for Pete to come out here too,” said Charboneau. “My wife put a stop to it.”

Charboneau’s wife, the former Dinah E. Gomez, of El Paso, Texas, didn’t want her husband and her two sons to be in Iraq at the same time. She’s now ordered Charboneau to take care of Joe, and ordered both to wear their fragmentation protection armored vests and helmets at all times while they’re here.

“My wife is on an emotional rollercoaster,” said Charboneau. “She put up a sign that says ‘Having Marine son go to Iraq: Heartbreaking. Having Marine husband go with him: Awesome. Having another Marine son stay back with me: Priceless.'”

In his more than 23 years as a Marine, Charboneau, who began his career as a private, has left his family behind several times while he answers the call of duty. His most recent deployment was two years ago, when he served in Kuwait and Iraq during the beginning of the war.

“I’m not as homesick as I’ve been any other time I’ve deployed,” he said. “I could stay here for a year and I won’t miss my family because I have Joe here. I don’t think there’s a better feeling in the world than being in war with your son.”

Joe, getting his feet wet when it comes to deployments, said he misses his family, his girlfriend and some of the comforts of life back home. “You never know how good you have it until you’re shaving out of a water bottle.”

Father and son can often be spotted riding their bikes around Al Asad. They celebrated Charboneau’s birthday last month and are making plans to celebrate Joe’s birthday in July.

Not many are privileged to have breakfast with their father every day while in a combat zone. Not many can smoke a cigar with their son after a hard day of work half the world away from home. Charboneau, proud of his Marine sons, said there’s a small disadvantage of serving with one of them here.

“It’s the same thing as back at home,” he said jokingly. “I have to tell him to do his laundry, clean his room and brush his teeth.”