FORT LEE, Va. — Pvt. Andrew Lee Ross followed in his father’s footsteps and enlisted into the Virginia Army National Guard July 2, 2019, at the Military Entrance Processing Station at Fort Lee, Virginia. He follows a long line of family members into the military, and his oath of enlistment was administered by his uncle, Lt. Col. Steven Gutierrez, in front of his mother, siblings and father, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Merritt, a recruiter for the Virginia Army National Guard.
“I’ve been surrounded by military my whole life,” Ross said. In taking the oath of enlistment, Ross is the fourth generation to carry on his family’s tradition of military service.
“I guess the Army is a family business,” Gutierrez said.
Ross also grew up participating and volunteering with Virginia National Guard Family Programs, and grew familiar with the National Guard from those experiences.
“He’s been aware of the National Guard for a long time,” Merritt said. “He’s been a camper at youth camp, a teen volunteer at youth camp, as well as on the teen panel for the state.”
In 2016, he and his family were selected as the Army National Guard Family of the Year.
“Him and his sister and his mom and dad have been an integral part of volunteering for Family Programs,” said Joe Duerksen, child and youth coordinator for the Virginia National Guard. He’s known Ross for years and said, “It’s been neat to watch him grow.”
Ross, who enlisted as a 35F Intelligence Analyst, said he made the decision to join the National Guard in the middle of his senior year at Menchville High School. He said he saw the what the National Guard had done for his dad and knew it would do great things for him as well. As a recruiter, his dad wanted to make sure he was making the decision on his own.
“It was not of my influence,” Merritt said. “It had to be a decision all on his own.”
Ross talked it over with his dad and uncle, and finally decided that the National Guard was the right fit. It was familiar, plus he knew he’d be able to pay to college that way and said he plans to attend Old Dominion University after he goes to basic and advanced training, which he’ll start in November.
Both Merritt and Gutierrez described the day as “surreal.” Merritt said he was exceptionally proud of his son and that the full realization hadn’t hit him just yet.
“Nothing would have stopped me from being here today,” Gutierrez said. “It’s so special and I’m so glad we can all be here to celebrate the next generation serving our country.”