Family ties Father, daughter grow closer through National Guard

Sunday, August 11, 2002

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Spc. Michael Thompson has something special with him on his National Guard deployment to Afghanistan: his daughter.

"She's not just my daughter, she's my battle buddy," Thompson said of his 25-year-old daughter, Spc. Janieko Nance. Both are with the 769th Engineers Battalion from Baton Rouge, La., and came to Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, about a month ago.

The two work separate jobs, Thompson transporting troops to and from work sites and Nance handling the distribution of chemical masks and suits, but eat breakfast together every morning.

"A lot of people say they wish their parent was here," Nance said. "I'm glad he's here, because I can go to him and say, 'Daddy, I want this; Daddy, I want to talk.' My dad is here, with me."

Thompson, chatting with Nance one afternoon in the shade of a tree outside her office, is visibly proud to be serving in the National Guard with his daughter and goes out of his way to take care of her.

"Dads get overprotective sometimes," he said. "I ask myself all the time, 'I wonder if she's got everything she needs.' It makes me feel good when she and I can go to the PX and I can say, 'Don't worry about it, I got this.' There's nothing I have that is too great to give her and my family."

An educational opportunity

Thompson, 46, first joined the National Guard after high school in 1972. He served for a few years and then returned to the civilian world, working as a professional meat cutter. A few years ago, however, he rejoined the Guard to take advantage of the retirement benefits and served part-time before being called up for duty in Afghanistan.

He said he always saw the military as an opportunity for his children.

"I always wanted them to be a part of some branch of the military so that they could see the world, go places, do things and grow as they go," Thompson said of his two children.

His son, Brian, 24, serves full time in the Navy.

Nance jokingly blames her father for pressuring her into joining the National Guard 3 1/2 years ago.

"It was all his fault," she laughed, pointing to her father. "It was a big setup."

Nance said the main reason she joined, though, was for educational opportunities.

She was scheduled to start college this fall and hopes to eventually study pediatric medicine, but was deployed to Afghanistan instead.

Their battalion is responsible for much of the transportation at Bagram.

"We are here right now to reconstruct, rebuild, refix," Thompson said.

Nance is pleased with her National Guard experience. "I love it. You get to see new places, and I've met a whole new family, my 769th family," Nance said of her military unit.

Their family was initially worried about the two of them coming to Afghanistan, but they understand why they are here.

Nance's 7-year-old daughter, Asia, looking at the newspaper one day before they deployed, said to her grandfather, "They still haven't caught Osama bin Laden."

Nance said her mother has always supported her National Guard career, including her deployment to Afghanistan.

"My mom said, 'You take care of your dad, he'll take care of you.' We're supporting each other here and she's back home supporting us," Nance said.

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