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A veteran-to-veteran storytelling project designed to let Miami Valley veterans describe their own experiences, in their own words with a special focus on stories of re-entry into civilian life.

Veterans' Voices: Reflecting On A Parent's Service

(from left) Nicole Riesen, Juan Ramirez, and Sacha Ramirez
(from left) Nicole Riesen, Juan Ramirez, and Sacha Ramirez

Children of military families represent a unique community in the United States. Often, these children are resilient, yet struggle because of the sacrifice they share when a parent serves in the armed forces. U.S. Navy veteran Juan Ramirez discussed this with his daughters, Nicole Riesen and Sacha Ramirez.


Juan Ramirez (JR): I am out of Texas, born in San Benito. Both my parents were from Mexico, and I believe the year I was born was the year that they were admitted into the country legally. So fortunate for me, I was on this side of that Rio Grand. And after I met your mom and had you girls, your mom also started working in the last year or two, doing migratory farm work from there all the way up to Ohio. We finally settled in Ohio. And we still struggled even with two incomes, so it was suggested to me that I that maybe the military was the answer. And I finally said, okay, let's go check it out. The Navy said, we want you, need you, we'll sign you up. I said, okay, so there was a hope and a dream that that was going to change our lives … for the family, not just for me.

Sacha Ramirez (SR): I wanted to go back to a day that I remember when the recruiting officer came to our house. I hid underneath the dining room table while you all were signing paperwork and it was a really traumatic day for me. Can you tell us a little bit about your memory of that day?

JR:  Well, some things are hard to talk about, you know. But yeah, I remember. I remember how hard it was and how you did cry because I cried, too.

Nicole Riesen (NR): You know, there's a lot of talk about, you know, being thankful, you know, to our veterans and of course, of course. But I also feel like people don't really understand the things that you sacrifice and give up and how much it affects your family like on that level, too. You know, and I don't think a lot of people are aware of that. Yeah, it's huge.

SR: Yeah, you already had three kids and a wife when you joined, so ...

JR: That's right. Thirty-one years old, married, three children, beautiful children. But I had a, we had a dream, you know, and a hope that it was going to better our positions in life. And that's why I went ahead and sacrificed. And it's not like I wanted to do it, I wanted to be separated, or if anybody ever thought that I abandoned my family, that is not the case.

NR: I didn't feel that way. I was very proud of you and I thought you were doing something really good. I didn't feel abandoned per say. I mean, we missed you ...

SR: We missed you terribly.

NR: … and it was difficult. It's difficult for kids to deal with things without their dad. And I've always been very proud to tell people that you served, and I do think you did create a good life, and we are very proud of your service.

JR: You guys made me feel proud, as well, and I'm very lucky. But sometimes life just tends to dish out certain things to you and you've got to roll with it.

NR: No, I think we do a pretty good job rolling. I think we did, and I think we do.

SR: Yeah, we roll.

NR: Yeah, we’re round. We roll.

Nicole Riesen, Juan Ramirez, and Sacha Ramirez's conversation took place at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer.

Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource.

This story was edited by Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.