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July 19, 2023

Profiles of Valor: Like Father, Like Son

When a father and son end up in the same combat zone.

Over the years, I have profiled military family members serving at the same time. When my dad was a WWII Naval Aviator, his brothers were serving with the Army and Marines. That was common in global conflicts, but much less so in regional conflicts like Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

More recently I profiled Haden, Jay, and Erin Fullam. Brothers Haden and Jay, and Jay’s wife Erin, all served together as A-10 combat fighter pilots in the same squadron. That squadron flight lineup is historic.

Today, some perspective from a father and son — Army Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot, with the 10th Mountain Division’s aviation brigade, and his son, Marine Sgt. Andrew M. Pouliot, a landing support specialist — who served together in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom before Joe Biden’s disastrous surrender and retreat in 2021.

From Todd Pouliot:

The horrific events that led to Operation Enduring Freedom unfolded before my son’s eyes one morning when he was a fourth-grader preparing for school, and a phone call prompted his mother to turn on the TV. The two of them saw the first World Trade Center tower in flames and soon after, a second airliner slamming into the second tower. From then on, he said he remembers constantly being interested in the news and what was happening in Afghanistan.

In 2005, when I decided to reenter the Army, my son Andrew took a keen interest in the history of the units and bases to which I would be assigned. He said he was drawn to the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 17 when a Marine recruiter called him and invited him to visit his office. Andrew said he was captivated by the notion of earning the status of becoming a U.S. Marine, and he decided to enlist because of the values and honor of being a Marine and because no one else in the Family had done it. I probably should have considered the possibility of both of us being deployed to Afghanistan.

Soon after high school graduation, Andrew left for boot camp June 21, 2010, exactly 22 years to the day I shipped out to U.S. Army Basic Training. After completing his military occupational specialty training to become a landing support specialist, he was assigned to a Marine Reserve unit in San Jose, Calif., where there were no deployments on the horizon. Finally, in 2012, a spot for him became available, and he would deploy with Combat Logistics Battalion 6 from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

I remember once he arrived in theater sharing notes with him on our new common experiences: the transient tents, the chow halls, the passenger terminals. When I visited him [at his base], an undulating patch of sand and rock with broad views of the surrounding desert and distant villages, I was very proud to see him perform his duties with passion, professionalism and discipline. As a father, I was also pleased to see how well he got along with his colleagues and how he interacted with fellow Marines and passengers who stopped by for assistance.

In a conflict where there are no front lines, a certain amount of danger exists no matter where one is in this area of the world. Naturally, it is difficult knowing that my son may be in harm’s way. There is a unique bond between those who have deployed to war zones such as Afghanistan. My son and I will now always have that bond. I am extremely proud of my son’s decision to serve in the military.

From Andrew Pouliot:

My dad joined the Army as a Russian linguist and served initially in 1988-1993 with 2d ACR in Germany. I was born while he was at DLI in 1991. He rejoined the army in 2005 while I was in middle school. My dad was gone a lot when I was a kid, first to Korea, and then on to Afghanistan as a CH-47 crew chief, which was hard for me to handle. When I joined the Marines in 2010, my Dad was getting ready for his second deployment to Afghanistan with 10th Mountain Division as a public affairs officer. I wasn’t sure if he would be able to see me before he left, which motivated me to push myself at MCRD.

The day I graduated boot camp, I remember marching out onto the parade deck at MCRD San Diego and seeing someone in an Army uniform standing on top of the bleachers holding up a camera and my heart started racing: is that dad? When our drill instructors released us I was looking for my family in the crowd and Dad came out of nowhere. I remember hugging him and crying because he made it to see me becoming a man. He was always my hero growing up and it meant so much to me that he was there. I was at Marine Combat Training when he shipped out to Afghanistan.

In late 2012 I received word I was going to Afghanistan. I was on an outpost called FOB Shukvani right outside of Sangin in Helmand Province, Taliban Central. My dad somehow got my office phone number and would call me to check in at least once a week. I felt bad that my buddies didn’t have that so sometimes dad would talk to them on the phone and ask how they were doing. It went a long way with the guys, kind of having a war dad.

His SgtMaj found out his son was in-country and told him to go visit me. Dad called to say he would come to my FOB but I had no idea when he’d be there. Every day I’d go to my LZ to receive flights and hopefully see Dad, but he wasn’t there. After three days, I was pretty bummed and assumed he’d canceled his trip due to work; after all, we were in an active war zone. But on that fourth day I noticed that my friends at Camp Bastion hadn’t called me to notify me of an inbound flight, which was unusual. Two USMC CH-53s came in and I met them in the LZ. I was watching Marines coming down the ramp and turned around to talk on my radio when someone tapped me on the shoulder. Thinking it was a crew chief I held up my hand for them to wait so I could put my ear to the radio; when I turned around it was dad in full battle rattle.

He spent three days and two nights with us. I got to walk him to his bird and I started to cry as he flew away. I stood at the edge of the pad and saluted the chopper as it departed. Dad returned home in time for Christmas and I came back at the end of January. Dad retired from the Army in January 2022 and I went into the IRR in September 2021. After all these years, and even though I’m far taller than him, Dad is a giant among men and has always been my hero. Thanks for being a great dad and looking out for me no matter what. Love, your wayward Marine son. Semper Fi!

Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot and Sgt. Andrew Pouliot — thank you for your devotion to our nation and defending Liberty for all.

(Thanks to David Yuzuk, author of The Giant Killers, and Ted Heeley for these profiles. If you missed last week’s profile, read about Larry Taylor, our nation’s latest Medal of Honor recipient.)

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

Join us in prayer for our nation’s Military Patriots standing in harm’s way, for our First Responders, and for their families.

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The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust, in keeping with our Military Mission of Service to our uniformed service members and veterans, are proud to support and promote the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, both the Honoring the Sacrifice and Warrior Freedom Service Dogs aiding wounded veterans, the National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the Folds of Honor outreach, and Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, and Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13)


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