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New Jersey mother and daughter serve together in Guard

By Master Sgt. Mark Olsen | New Jersey National Guard | August 12, 2016

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – Staff Sgt. Janet Medina punched her daughter in the chest.

It's not as bad as it sounds. The military has a time-honored tradition to punch on a person's rank when promoted.

In this case, it was even more special because Janet's daughter, Justina Medina, was being promoted to staff sergeant.

Both Medinas are in the New Jersey Army National Guard.

That's not really unusual. In the New Jersey National Guard, like any other state's National Guard, brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, cousins, etc., serving together is not that unusual.

However,what is uncommon is that Janet and Justina both joined the Guard at the same time – Sept. 22, 2007. New Jersey Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class John Medina – Janet's husband and Justina's father, was their recruiter.

It started when the Army changed the age individuals could enlist.

"I was 39 at the time," Janet said."My husband always knew I wanted to do this. I thought about it for a month. She (Justina) was already processing and doing her paperwork, so I said, 'Hold on, wait for me.'"

"We went to basic training and AIT (advanced individual training) together," Justina said.

At basic training they were in the same company, but different platoons.

"Her bunk was literally upstairs from mine," Justina said.

It was at basic where they got their nicknames, Janet became Mama Medina and Justina became Baby Medina.

"The biggest story my Mom loves to tell is that they always put us against each other to do pugils (sticks)," Justina said."I didn't want to hit my Mom with pugil sticks, but, it was just really sad for me, because I hit her really hard and I started crying."

"She was a lot better at PT (physical training) than I was," Justina said."She took me under her wing."

"I'm double her age, come on girl," Janet said.

After basic came AIT. They both have the same MOS (military occupational specialty) -human resources specialist.

"We went to AIT together, she was my bunkmate," Justina said.

"We shared homework too," Janet said.

After AIT, they were also in the same unit, the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

"She went to work at OP (Office of Personnel) at Joint Force Headquarters," Justina said.

Justina would stay with the 50th for six years before transferring to the 119th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion followed by 102nd Cavalry.

The one thing that stays the same is they motivate each other.

"We push each other to do great things," Justina said.

For Janet, there is one difference after joining the military and it has to do with when she looks at the American flag.

"You see things differently. The flag doesn't look the same ever again, the pride, the joy in serving my country," Janet said.