PORT CLINTON, Ohio -To say military service runs in the family might be an understatement for Col. Barbara Herrington-Clemens and her husband Ken Clemens. Between them and three of their five children, they have more than 120 years of military service and eight deployments.
Herrington-Clemens enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard in 1981, while Ken, a retired Ohio Air National Guard senior master sergeant, enlisted in 1982. Two decades later, two sons, Drew and Rich, and a daughter, Chelsea, followed suit.
"It makes me very proud of them to serve our country. The military is not for everyone, so we are very blessed to have our children serving in our military," Ken said.
Staff Sgt. Rich Clemens, who works at the Ohio National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Columbus, said his parents played a big role in his decision to enlist.
"Had my parents not been in the military, I am not sure that I would have known anything about it and I probably would not have enlisted. Their knowledge and experience with the Guard made it an easy choice to make, especially since it has always been a part of my life," Rich said.
It's because of his parents that Staff Sgt. Drew Clemens of the 200th RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) has continued his military career.
"I was at nine years' service and took a six-year break before I re-enlisted," Drew said. "They encouraged me not to give that up. It was a big decision as a father of four with two deployments already under my belt, but it was definitely the best decision I had made in a long time."
Having a Military Family has provided Capt. Chelsea Clemens Migura with a lot of support through the years. Her father transferred from the Army Guard to the Air Guard's 200th RED HORSE Squadron and joined her when the unit deployed.
"During my deployment to Iraq my dad was with me. I cannot put into words what this meant to me as a 20-year-old in a war zone. My family at home sent us care packages and letters to let us know we were in their thoughts and being supported," Chelsea said of the experience. She is currently in the Air Force Reserve and lives in Texas with her husband, Zach, who is in the Army Reserve.
Herrington-Clemens echoes her daughter's sentiment about the importance of family support.
"My father was a career Marine and my older sister was Air Force, so my family understood what service and training requirements demanded of the service member and their families. I would never have stayed in the service if it had not been for the amazing support of family members who loved and prioritized the needs of our kids exactly like we did as parents," she said.
That tradition continues today, as the family pitches in to help look after Drew's, Rich's and Chelsea's children when they leave for training or an extended deployment.
Employer support is also important to a career in the National Guard, as a majority of the Soldiers and Airmen in the family have full-time civilian jobs. It can be a challenge for employers to be without an employee for days, weeks or months at a time. Chelsea said she's been blessed to have understanding employers and supportive co-workers when her absences meant their workload increased.
"I am always upfront in interviews that while my current military service may impact my civilian career, it is also responsible for some of my best experiences and developed many of my strengths," she said.
While the next generation of the family is still too young to enlist, Drew and his siblings agree they would like to see their children follow in their footsteps.
"I will absolutely encourage my children to pursue a military career," he said. "Mainly because there are great education benefits, but it also creates discipline and brotherhood."