CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Upon hearing the news that his son would be deploying to Afghanistan, Sgt. Maj. Robert Allen of Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 began making the arrangements to join the fight.
“After I came off of recruiting duty I started trying to get into a unit that was deploying so I would be here with him during his first deployment,” said Allen. “I wanted him to have someone to talk to and vent to.”
The elder Allen works in the support squadron’s compound on Camp Leatherneck and spends most of his days literally across the street from his son, also Robert Allen, a Marine lance corporal and motor transport operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 8.
“This experience has been helpful for both of us,” the sergeant major said. “We talk all the time. We laugh and we kid around with each other, and it makes the days go by a bit quicker.”
But knowing all too well the pitfalls young Marines encounter, the senior Allen said he works in earnest to steer his son away from them.
“In my experience, young Marines are so eager to come out here and do great things that they forget about the need to have a balance between work and taking time to call their spouses to see how they are doing back home,” said the sergeant major.
Lance Cpl. Allen and his wife, D’Lee, were married Jan. 2, just 22 days before he deployed.
“He definitely keeps me in check,” the younger Allen said about his father. “There was one time when I hadn’t called my wife in about a week and a half and he came and got me out of bed and made me call her at 11 o’clock at night.”
Among other lessons he has imparted on his son, Allen said he has stressed the need to stay physically fit, keep a positive attitude and remain humble.
“It’s not about ribbons or medals out here, it’s about being a part of a team and doing the best job you can do,” said the elder Allen. “It’s not about the recognition.”
While the experience of deploying together has further bonded the two Marines, both agree the person who has faced the brunt of heartache and stress has been Leslie Allen, the wife of the elder Allen, and mother of the younger.
“This whole thing has driven my mother crazy,” said the younger Allen. “Growing up, my dad’s deployments really weren’t that bad because after a while we just got used to them, but this is all completely different with us both being here.”
Leslie said her feelings about the deployment fluctuate daily, but her heart bursts with pride knowing two generations of the Allen family are fighting side-by-side.
But the sergeant major, with 26 years of Marine Corps service, said he knows never before has his wife faced the possibility of such a devastating loss as during this deployment.
“My son and I went on a convoy together, and it was one of the worst convoys they’d had in a long time, with four improvised explosive devices hitting and three [medical evacuations],” said Allen. “I’d say she’s probably aged ten years since we’ve both been out here. She deserves all the credit in the world. She’s been taking care of everything on the home front, all while continuing to be a great wife to me and a wonderful mother for him.”
“I’ve been seeing my husband off for 25 years now, that I got used to, but this is my first time sending my son off as well,” said Leslie. Both Leslie and her husband are natives of Portland, Maine, and the family claims the New England state as their home outside of the Marine Corps.
“I now understand the feelings of a mother as opposed to a wife,” Leslie Allen said. “While many of the feelings are the same, it’s somehow different with a child.”
In the near future, the younger Allen will head back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Leslie Allen said she and her daughter-in-law, D’Lee, have been busy in North Carolina, preparing for the young Marine’s return.
“D’Lee just signed the contract to move into base housing, so that’s been keeping us busy getting their first home ready for when Robert gets back,” Leslie Allen explained.
A few months after the lance corporal’s return, his father will join him in the Jacksonville, N.C., area, bringing their time serving in Afghanistan together to a close.
“This has been great,” said the younger Allen. “Having someone in your family in the same branch of service deployed overseas with you is something that everyone in the Marine Corps dreams of while they’re here. I never thought this would happen.”
Both men share a common belief in the importance of loyalty. It is something that has been passed down from father to son and has evolved into a creed between the two.
“My son’s got a tattoo on his arm that says, ‘Family and Loyalty,’ and it’s something we live by,” said the elder Allen. “He’s finally seeing what I’ve talking about for all these years, that while he and I are a family, the Marine Corps is our family, too.
“To see my son put on a uniform and help defend his country with such zeal and honor has proven to be the culminating feature of my career,” said the sergeant major. “I feel even better going home to retire now that my son is a Marine. I know he’s got it, and everything is good to go.”
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