Considering the number of people that have served here in Iraq since the beginning of this war, there is no shortage of unusual happenings. Fathers serving with sons and mothers serving with daughters, brothers and sisters, etc. It seems like the base newspaper writes about such events every month or two. This particular instance of uncles and nephews serving together seems to be the first in the recollection of anyone here at this time. In the case of Nick and I, since we are both members of the 122nd Fighter Wing, it is to be expected that we travel to the same places. But for Joe Hudson, also a member of our unit, to serve with his nephew Joseph Chestnut – who is serving on active duty – is a rarity. Of course I could be biased because I’m here, and I’m involved, but on an otherwise boring news day, these are the people and this is the story.
Staff Sergeant Joseph (Joey) Chestnut Jr., 24, is a member of the 13th Fighter Squadron, based at Misawa Air Force Base, Japan, but he’s been here at Balad, Iraq since June. He is an electrical systems technician on the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Previously he maintained electrical systems on the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System – which is the flying control center for all air operations here. Chestnut is originally from Bell, Florida. He moved to Cleveland, Tennessee in 1995 and joined the Air Force in 2002. When I asked him what it was like to serve in a combat zone with his uncle he said, “I believe in the mission and I’m happy to serve wherever the Air Force sends me. But to have my uncle Joe here makes it seem a little more like home, it also helps to pass the time since we often have chances to catch up on what I’ve missed out on by being in Japan.” Chestnut is the son of Joe Chestnut Sr. and Deborah Chestnut (Hudson) of Cleveland, Tennessee. He is the nephew of Technical Sergeant Joseph Hudson.
Technical Sergeant Joseph (Joe) Hudson, 31, is a member of the 122nd Fighter Wing, in Fort Wayne. He is also originally from Bell, Florida where he graduated from Bell High School in 1993. He is married to Tiffany Hudson (Hayes) of Van Wert, Ohio. Tiffany also served in the Air Force and met her husband at Misawa Air Base in 1995. They were married there in 1996. They have a son Brandon, 10, and a daughter Sydney, 4. They live in Convoy, Ohio. Technical Sergeant Hudson was originally assigned to the same unit as Chestnut, the 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa, back in 1994. Hudson said, “I’m very proud of Joey and what he’s accomplished in his career, it is also a proud accomplishment for our family.” This is Joe’s 12th overseas deployment, with 7 of those trips taking place here in Southwest Asia. “With both of our units working out of the same building we have lots of opportunities to check in with each other throughout the day.” “Things move rather quickly around here, so it’s nice to have a chance to know how things are going.” Hudson is the son of Broughton Hudson and Patsy Avery.
Senior Airman, Nick Marquardt, 20, is one of the newest members of the 122nd Fighter Wing’s Avionics Shop in Fort Wayne. He is my nephew, the son of Jack and Monica Davis (Johnston) of Wren, and Earl Marquardt of New Haven. He resides in Schererville, Indiana. He is employed by Caribbean Pools. He graduated from Crestview High School in 2005 and joined the 122nd Fighter Wing the same year. I asked him what it was like serving with his uncle. Of course he had to be careful how he replied, since we are going to be here for several more weeks. But he had the same sentiment as Chestnut saying that he was “proud to continue the family tradition of uncle Tony and Grandpa Harry.” This is Nick’s first deployment, and he added, “This one will be hard to top.”
I’m Master Sergeant Anthony Johnston, and I’m 44. I was born in Monroeville, where I spent my first 30 years. I live in rural Hoagland now with wife of 23 years Marilyn (Knapke) and our three children, Kaitlin, Alexandria and Jack. This is my 24th year at the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne where I am the First Sergeant for the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. This is my third trip to Iraq and my fifth deployment to Asia since September 11, 2001. I’ve been on every overseas deployment that the 122nd Fighter Wing has been involved with. This is my 13th time to cross the ocean. We knew that this deployment was on the horizon for over a year, so it isn’t like it came as a surprise. The toughest part for me was the other members of my family reminding me to “Keep an eye on Nick.” It’s hard enough keeping yourself safe here, let alone trying to watch out for someone else – whether he’s your nephew or not. I am responsible for all the young men in my shop, and Nick gets the same treatment as anyone else. He may even tell you that sometimes I’m even a little tougher on him, just so people don’t think he gets any favoritism.
Hudson and Marquardt are members of American Legion Post #420 in Monroeville. Marquardt plans to be one of the newest members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10205 in November following his return home, Hudson has been a member there since our first trip to Iraq last year – and a member of Post #420 since 2003. Chestnut is planning a visit to Monroeville during his Christmas leave in December, when he will join the Legion and the VFW. I am the Chaplain at Post #420 and the Quartermaster for the VFW.