Story by SrA Bryan Swink on 06/14/2019Separated from loved ones during birthdays, holidays and special moments are a way of life when a family member is serving in the armed forces. Military children grow accustomed to being apart from their parents during these times, but when the nation calls and it's time to serve, a deployment or distant assignment doesn't take into consideration the time of the year.
The sacrifices men and women who wear the cloth of our nation make while serving can have a major impact and influence on their children.
This is true for two 136th Airlift Wing staff sergeants who grew up watching their father garner the uniform for his country and who now follow in his footsteps to serve beside the man they looked up to their entire life.
Staff Sgt. Thomas Criger, Jr., 136th Force Support Squadron food services technician, and Staff Sgt. Calvin Criger, 136th Communications Flight network specialist, said they knew from an early age they wanted to follow their father into volunteer service to support their state and country.
"I think we both always knew we wanted to join the military," said Thomas, Jr. "We grew to realize the importance of what was going on, especially after 9/11 when he deployed much more frequent."
The boy's father, Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Criger, 136th Maintenance Squadron accessories flight superintendent, spent 10 years serving as active duty in the Air Force before finally landing in the Texas Air National Guard with the 136th Airlift Wing in 1995.
With both sons being so engulfed in military culture from such a young age, it was not surprising to their father to see them follow a similar path.
"The boys grew up around the wing and knew what the environment was like," said Thomas, Sr. "I'm very proud and honored they have chosen this direction for their own lives and so lucky to have them in the wing I've called home for the last 24 years. I know what opportunities and experiences exist in the Air National Guard and I'm happy they also get to share in this experience."
Thomas, Jr., took the direct route after high school and joined the 136 AW while Calvin followed his fathers path and served six years active-duty Air Force before recently joining the wing family.
Neither of them said they were worried about handling military service and the challenges that come with it.
"I never had any doubt I could handle it because I know if (my dad) can do it, I can do it!" Calvin laughingly joked.
Both sons have paved their own way within the Air Force, but each say they owe everything to their father who set the example and helped guide them along their paths.
"He taught us about hard work, integrity and personal accountability at an early age," said Calvin. "But really, it's just the example he set for us and the sacrifices he's made for others that made a huge impact on me."
Even though all three Crigers work in different squadrons throughout the wing, there is never a shortage of double takes and confused looks from Airmen around base who aren't quite sure which Criger they're looking at or speaking with.
"Every drill weekend something happens at least once where someone asks me if I'm my brother or if I'm related to the senior master sergeant in the maintenance squadron," said Thomas, Jr. "Not to mention the countless emails I've received which were intended for my dad since we share the same name."
Regardless of how accustomed one may become to the lifestyle a military family leads, being separated from loved ones during meaningful holidays will always pose its challenges. At least during this year's Father's Day, the Crigers won't be far from family.