Sgt. 1st Class Damon Eyerly (center) stands proudly between his sons Pfc. Aaron Eyerly (left) and Cadet Adam Eyerly (right). Damon has served in the Missouri Army National Guard for over 24 years and is proud to have two sons donning the same uniform. Aaron enlisted into the Army National Guard in November and Adam has been in the Army Reserves for six years. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)
By Jennifer Archdekin
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Missouri couple has parlayed their love for country into a continuing long tradition of military service.
Sgt. 1st Class Damon Eyerly, of Independence, has served in the Missouri Army National Guard for over 24 years. He is now joined by two of his five children in wearing the uniform. Cadet Adam Eyerly has been in the Army Reserves for six years and Pfc. Aaron Eyerly is a new Missouri Guardsmen.
"We love our country," said Damon. "For me, it's a testament to have my Family support me in my position, but when I see them following my footsteps, that's just a very proud moment."
Damon said he and his wife, Nancy, have not been strident about their children choosing to be in the military. Instead, they have shown their Family what a love for their country looks like by their actions and casual conversations.
"I believe our Family conversations have been more about right and wrong or what's important for our country, rather than you need to join the Army when you're old enough," said Damon, who serves with the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. "I've never said that to any of them. They both came to that conclusion on their own."
Damon gives all credit to his wife for their children's sense of patriotism and desire to serve.
"I know she did something right," said Damon. "I just try to do what I can, but it's the values that their mom instilled in them since they were kids."
Eldest son, Adam, is a junior at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla studying aerospace engineering. He is in the ROTC program and as he nears the end of college is also considering transferring to the National Guard like his dad and brother.
Aaron, a senior at Raytown High School, joined the National Guard in November and drills with Detachment 2, Recruit Sustainment Program in Kansas City while awaiting basic training in July at Fort Benning, Ga. He will ultimately serve with 1-138th Infantry Regiment in Kansas City as an infantryman, in the same armory as his dad. Aaron plans to study physics at the University of Missouri in Columbia and enroll in their ROTC program.
When asked why this Family serves, their answers are simple.
"It's in the Family," said Aaron.
"It's in the blood," said Damon.
"It's a cool feeling seeing Aaron in uniform," said Adam. "It's still kind of a shock to me. I look over there and the guy in the uniform is my brother. He's going to look back on it and say that was fun, I'm glad I did it."
Right now the Family is focused on Aaron and the start of his military career. Though Aaron said he is nervous to have his dad nearby on drill weekend, there is also some solace with it.
"There is some comfort with my dad being here, but I can't mess up," said Aaron.
"I'm scared to death that I'm going to embarrass him," said Damon.
"I'd be excited that I'd get a free ride to drill," said Adam, who serves with 418th Civil Affairs Battalion in Belton. "I have to drive myself."
All kidding aside, the Eyerlys are proud of their Family's legacy. Nancy is especially proud to be the daughter, wife and mom of military men. Both Damon and Nancy's fathers served in the Army during World War II.
Though having never worn the uniform herself, Nancy has served in her own right, alongside Damon for a quarter-century. She knows all too well the stakes are high with her husband and two sons in the service. She recognizes the possibility all could be called overseas at the same time, but doesn't dwell on it.
"I don't really think about that," said Nancy. "I do have people kind of criticize saying, 'Oh! I could never let my kids do that.' My husband has done it the whole time we've been married and I'm very proud that my boys are willing to do this. If we don't do it, who will? Who will protect our country and fight for us? So, I'm very proud of them and I pray for them a lot."
Throughout Damon's career he's been called away for various trainings, state emergency duties and in 2005 he served for a year in Iraq. While dad was overseas, the Eyerly children ranged from four years old to high school. Nancy was left to take care of everything by herself.
"That was my life," said Nancy. "That's all I did was try to take care of the kids. It was a good thing though. We love our country."
Adam has since deployed to Africa in 2010 for 10 months on a civil affairs mission.
The fact that his sons are carrying on the torch means the world to Damon, but what he anticipates most is seeing his sons become officers.
"I'm looking forward to saluting both of these guys one day," said Damon.
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During a recent drill Sgt. 1st Class Damon Eyerly (left) promotes his son, Aaron Eyerly (right), to the rank of private first class in the Missouri Army National Guard. Aaron recently became a Guardsman in November, while Damon's oldest son, Cadet Adam Eyerly, serves with the Army Reserves. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)