MILFORD, Mass- “Going in there as a Soldier and a Mom was kind of scary. At least if I was deployed before, I’d have known what to expect,” said Sgt. Marilyn Gonzalez, 42, a motor transportation operator with the 1166th Transportation Company. “And then she wanted to come and tag along… She wasn’t supposed to go.”
“She” is Gonzalez’s daughter Spc. Jessica Pedraza, 20, also a motor transportation operator with the 1166th Transportation Company. The mother-daughter team deployed together to Iraq.
Originally a supply specialist, Pedraza had to reclass as an 88M in order to deploy with her mother.
“I was a supply specialist and they had way too many, so I wasn’t picked,” said Pedraza “So I said, I might as well go with her (Gonzalez), because I don’t want to be the person that has to stay home and worry about the other… I’d rather just go out there and do it with them. So I had to go reclass my whole MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) to 88M.”
Pedraza knew from a young age that she wanted to join the military and for a very specific reason.
“A lot of people would assume it was my mom,” said Pedraza “But really, we were living in New York when Sept. 11th happened and I lost my uncle-in-law. He was a former Marine and he did a lot of things that touched us emotionally, and I figured this was my way of repaying him.”
Gonzalez would have joined the Army much sooner if it wasn’t for her having a family, said Gonzalez.
“Because I had four kids when I was young (I didn’t join). They got a little older and she (Pedraza) wound up going to an afterschool program up in New York that was a Marine Cadet core,” said Gonzalez.
This, directly led to Gonzalez’s joining the Army National Guard. It’s something that she always wanted to do, she said. Her dad was in the army. So it was always in the back of her mind.
“The guy that was running it started talking to me, and found out that I had wanted to be in the military at one point in my life. They encouraged me to take the ASVAB, and I passed it. So he encouraged me to see how far I could get. My kids said go for it, so I went and here I am,” she said.
Furthermore, deploying together was a bittersweet experience. Having family close by was comforting, but also nerve wracking.
“It was easy in certain ways, because you have family there with you. It’s like a little comfort zone,” said Gonzalez “But, it was hard at the same time, because, while we never went out on missions together, whenever she went out of the wire, I was freaking out the whole time. I had been out there so I knew how it was.”
The time apart was difficult, knowing the danger they were both in. They used technology and social media resources to keep in contact.
“Sometimes she (Pedraza) was gone for two weeks, maybe three weeks at the most,” said Gonzalez. “During those three weeks, though I’d be on the road myself somewhere else, I was nervous the whole time. I barely got any sleep, until she’d reach a FOB (Forward Operations Base) and I’d have her send me an email or a Facebook message. And have her let me know that she got there ok.”
“It was nice in a way, but it had its moments,” said Gonzalez.
In addition, the bond created through this shared experience has helped the two become closer than they ever thought possible.
“There are times that I go through certain things and I can call her and talk to her and she’ll know exactly what I’m feeling,” Gonzalez said. “If I try to talk to a different family member, they won’t understand.”
Yet, women are not often recognized for being service members, which can be frustrating for women who serve alongside men, doing the same job, said Pedraza.
“It bothers us because, you put on the same uniform and you put your life at risk to do the same thing,” said Gonzalez. “And you barely ever get acknowledged for it.”
Moreover, many people are astounded that women are able to drive the transport vehicles used by the 1166th.
“People’s reactions when you get out of the truck, they were like, ‘wow, you drive that?’” said Pedraza. “’How the heck do you get in there?’”
Besides that, now that they are back in Massachusetts, people still have trouble recognizing that they are Soldiers who have, and are, serving their country and commonwealth.
“I have veteran’s plates on my car,” said Pedraza. “Most times I have people come up and thank me for my father’s service; they don’t realize I’m the one in the Army.”
“People should be more open minded and realize there are a lot of females out there, young and old, who wear the uniform,” Pedraza continued.
Mothers, daughters, fathers and sons, all serve our nation. Some together in the same unit, others spread throughout the military. Recognition should be spread evenly amongst them all.
Therefore, whether related by blood, law or through their unit, the tie created during a year spent overseas doing a job as a team is lifelong.“They always say that when you go overseas you have a bond with your battle buddies, said Gonzalez. “Well, she’s a battle buddy; she’s my daughter and my battle buddy too.”