FORT HOOD, Texas – A command sergeant major runs across a landing zone in Afghanistan to catch his flight. In midstride he is told to stop for a photo. He takes his eye protection off, places them in his hand, turns to the camera and places a big smile on his face.
After returning to base and uploading his photo to his social media account for family and friends to see, he immediately receives a comment from his son, “Hey hero, where’s the eye-pro?”
“The best part of having my sons in the Army is when they validate my life, by saying things I would have said as a soldier,” said Command Sgt. Maj. José Fragoso, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, referring to his son Spc. Eric Fragoso’s correction on his photo.
Father and son are now both assigned to the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
In 2010, Eric informed his parents of his decision to enlist in the Army. José was proud his son decided to follow him into the Army, but it came as surprise to both him and his wife, Kerri Fragoso, a licensed nurse practitioner.
“It had just slipped off my radar. (Eric) didn’t want to join when he was 18, so I said, ‘ok, that’s fine,’” José said about his son’s decision.
The shock wasn’t until he told his parents what military occupational specialty he had chosen: infantry.
“When we found out he was going infantry like dad, we were like, have you not watched dad all these years,” Kerri said, laughing.
Shortly after Eric completed basic combat training, José deployed on a special assignment to Afghanistan. Eric received orders to the Ironhorse Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, where they were preparing to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
“It was pretty scary,” Kerri, who was currently living in Germany, said about her son and husband deploying at the same time. “You never knew what was going to happen…we knew quite a few people who didn’t make it the last time they were in Iraq.”
Kerri wasn’t the only one who was scared; Eric had mutual feelings.
“I was worried more for him,” Eric expressed. “I didn’t want to lose him.”
While José was deployed he learned he was going to be the command sergeant major of his son’s battalion, the 2nd “Lancer” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.
Although it had been about a year since the family had seen each other, and Eric was happy to be eating his mom’s homemade enchiladas again, he wasn’t too excited his father was assuming responsibility of his battalion.
“I was mad,” Eric said, laughing. He is now assigned to Company B of the 2nd “Stallion” Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment. “I was going to get kicked out of my unit, going to go somewhere else… I didn’t want to leave the guys I knew I could trust, I had trained with for about two and half years, and then get thrown in with some new guys. But that’s how the Army works.”
After the change of responsibility, Eric’s first sergeant came and informed him he was to leave his company immediately. “I took three days to move,” Eric said.
“Yeah, you did leave kicking and screaming,” José added jokingly.
Even months after José took responsibility of the Lancer Battalion, Eric still has to remind people he wants to do this on his own, he won’t use his father as a crutch.
“I have had people say to me, ‘you can do this because you are a sergeant major’s son’ or ‘just call your daddy,’” Eric said. “But, I sit there and tell them every day, ‘I don’t want to use him for anything,’ and I am not going to.”
José said he doesn’t use him, he does it on his own.
“I think that is a point of pride for me, he does it all on his own,” José added. “The things he has gotten from me, I didn’t tell him, he observed it.”
Although Eric doesn’t have the same leadership style as his father, José commented he sees himself in many of the same conclusions Eric decides on.
“We don’t have the same leadership style. What I do, wouldn’t fit his personality,” José stated. “It would be fake coming out of him, and people would see that… He has identified things that are wrong, that I would have identified as wrong, and he has come up with solutions I would have.”
Eric mentioned there have been times he caught himself sounding like his father.
“I feel like I am becoming a little more like him, and that’s fine with me,” Eric stated. “He’s been an inspiration, but I still have to do things my way.”
Kerri said she is pleased with Eric’s decision of enlisting in the Army and José's professional and personal example.
“I am proud of my sons for going into the military and doing something with their lives, following in their dad’s footsteps,” Kerri said. “And I’m proud of my husband; he has gone the distance and is still going. He shows his sons there is more … there can always be more.”