RICHMOND, Va. — For many, the stories that are handed down through generations have a strong influence on those who listen. Staff Sgt. Erick Nemec, assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division, grew up hearing stories about his family’s military service in the Peru Armed Forces and their stories helped lead him to his own military career.
“I come from a military family where my father and four of my uncles served in the Peru Armed Forces,” Nemec said. “I remember listening to their stories and wondered how it would be like to be a part of the military.”
One story Nemec remembers comes from an uncle. During the 1980s, the Shining Path, a revolutionary communist party and terrorist organization in Peru, took over control of most of the towns in the Peruvian Andes Mountains, according to Nemec. His uncle, an infantryman, spent years fighting against them until he was transferred to Lima, the Peruvian capital, where we later retired.
Despite the tradition of military service in Nemec’s family, they still weren’t supportive of his desire to serve. He said he knew at a young age that he wanted to join the military, but he went to college first instead at his family’s behest.
“It wasn’t until we moved to America […] and the events of Sept. 11th occurred that I decided it was finally time to join the military,” Nemec said. He joined the Florida Army National Guard in 2004 as an 11B Infantryman and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007. “By now, my family has accepted that I’m in the military and are proud of my service.”
After returning from his deployment, Nemec says he continued his military service as an infantryman, eventually transferring to the Virginia Army National Guard where he became a squad leader with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. While he enjoyed his time as an infantryman, eventually he felt like he needed a change.
“My military service has been an important milestone in my life that has provided me with different opportunities,” said Nemec. He’s worked with the 29th Infantry Division’s Domestic All-Hazards Response Team, which helps National Guard leaders know what military resources and capabilities are available in one state to assist another in providing relief during joint missions in case of natural disaster emergencies, and with the Virginia Counterdrug Task Force.
“It’s an amazing program established by U.S. Congress allowing guardsmen like myself to support law enforcement agencies against drug related threats,” Nemec said of the Counterdrug Task Force. “We are able to provide analytical support, training, air reconnaissance, civil operations and linguist capabilities.”
With all his experience, Nemec says joining the military was the best decision he’s ever made.
“It not only changed me as a person, it has also made me see my life in a different way. Wearing this uniform has always been something that makes me feel proud and accomplished. Being a part of a small group of people willing to also serve in this uniform is something that fills me with tremendous pride.”
Nemec says he also feels the military is a big part of family to him and says he still keeps in touch with other Soldiers he deployed with earlier in his career.
“That bond is even stronger, and every time we talk, it’s like we never stopped seeing each other,” Nemec said. “The unmatched sense of brotherhood and the feeling of belonging to a great organization is something that always fulfills me.”