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Father and son serve alongside each other at Camp Fallujah

18 May 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Visiting Camp Fallujah’s headquarters area is more than a chance for a haircut and Post Exchange stop for one Darkhorse Marine.  It’s a family reunion.

Lance Cpl. Anthony Rivera, is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment with Regimental Combat Team 5 here. His father, Sgt. Maj. Harry Rivera is also here with the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

This is the first time their deployments have coincided since the younger Rivera joined the Marine Corps almost two years ago.

“We found out as it happened,” said the 20-year-old data systems specialist assigned to Jump Platoon, Headquarters and Support Company.  “He was in recruiting when I got out here, then he got orders to deploy right away.” 

The sight of his son in uniform put a smile on the elder Rivera’s face, bringing back memories of his days as a lance corporal.  The two bear a striking resemblance and share the same Brooklyn accent.  Marines can usually guess they’re related within minutes of seeing them together.

The elder Rivera said although he was happy to find out he’d be deployed close to his son, he had his concerns.

“I was a little nervous that having him too close, I’d want to go see him,” he said.  “I thought I’d be thinking about him too much, but he has a lot of things to do, his own commander and sergeant major.”

It hasn’t been a problem, he said, since both keep busy with their respective jobs with their battalions.  They meet almost every week, if only for a few hours at a time. 

“He’ll talk to me about leadership, ask for advice, but never asked me to help him with anything,” Sgt. Maj. Rivera explained.  “Even though he’s a son of a Marine, he wants to figure out the Corps himself.”

Sgt. Maj. Rivera was surprised when his son decided to enlist, having already spent his entire life with the Marine Corps.

“For a father who’s a Marine, it was mixed emotions,” he said. “It was my proudest day, because he picked the hardest time to be a Marine, and he’d seen the hardest part of the Marine Corps, which was constant changes and separation. I saw a lot of kids who walked away, but he didn’t.”

Anthony attended eight different schools in twelve years while following his father’s duty stations throughout his career.  The family lived in Panama while Anthony was in middle school, where he got to know his maternal grandparents.

“People ask me where I’m from and I give them 50 different places,” he said.  “I remember the last three, from end of middle school to high school. The rest are a blur.” 

He spent his freshman and sophomore years in Cape Cod, Mass., where his father was the first sergeant for an active duty section of Marines on a Coast Guard base.  He graduated high school in Hawaii, where he’d already decided his future for himself.

“We didn’t really talk about the Marine Corps,” he said.  “College didn’t interest me too much.  He wanted me to explore my options, but I was pretty hard-headed about joining the Marine Corps.” 

Gunnery Sgt. Juan Gomez was the Receiving Barracks gunnery sergeant at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego five months before he was assigned the Darkhorse administrative chief. He remembered the day Anthony came to boot camp and his father, the sergeant major for recruiting in Fresno, Calif. asked to see him.

“When he walked in and asked to see him, I figured they were related,” Gomez recalled.  “Recruit Rivera was just like every other recruit, half-lost and following the crowd.  I tell him there was a gentleman in my office who would like to speak to you.  His eyes opened up and he thought he was in big trouble.”

Sgt. Maj. Rivera hadn’t foreseen the extra attention his son would get while in recruit training.

“All my friends wanted to see how he was doing,” he said.  “They remember him being a little kid running through our squad bays when we were drill instructors.  He sent me a letter saying, ‘Do not ask for me!’  He was in good shape when I saw him though,” he said.

Mary Rivera is wife and mother to the two deployed Marines, raising her other two children Christian and Gabrielle back home in Southern California.  Her husband and son both credited her character for the lives they’ve led.

“My wife’s seen me go to combat three times in two years,” the sergeant major said. “She is the foundation for the two of us.  If you look at our careers and lives so far, she has been the strength above and beyond whatever I would have expected.  She’s a strong lady.  Stronger than me.”

“She’s definitely the backbone of the family, supporting us,” Anthony said.

The son inherited more than just his mother’s eyes.

“He doesn’t overreact, doesn’t panic,” the sergeant major said. “I have a much shorter fuse. He’ll get things done, but he’s methodical like his mom. She’s definitely done a good job giving him strong traits."

He said they both worry about each other, but neither lets fear bet the best of him.

“You’ve got to walk the ground without being scared,” he said.  “If you’re scared, the ground will swallow you up. Walk it with faith, and walk in for a reason. We were picked to be Marines and be here and do our job.”