BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Multiple family members serving in the Armed Forces is not an uncommon thing. Sometimes those family members serve in the same location, which may even be a deployed environment.
This happens to be the case for sister and brother, Kelsey and James Harty. Although in separate units, they are coincidentally deployed to the same location in Afghanistan.
Spc. Kelsey Harty, a paralegal specialist with the Rockville, Maryland-based 398th Support Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, is the older sister of Sgt. James Harty.
Sgt. James Harty is a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer with the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss-based 2d Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment.
On May 1, 2019, then-Spc. James Harty, advanced to the rank of sergeant. With his sister also serving at Bagram Air Field, they were able to share that moment. As Kelsey shared how proud she was of her brother, the two reflected on how they felt with having the opportunity to celebrate James’ promotion together.
“It’s one of those things where, unless we were stationed in the same area, it wouldn’t have happened,” Kelsey said.
“It’s one of those once in a lifetime things,” James said.
“This [promotion] had a lot of meaning because he’s my little brother,” Kelsey said. “Even though I’ve been in the military longer, he’s always managed to advance before me. So it’s always been a race between who gets the rank first, but it’s just one of those friendly competition things. It helps me strive to be a better Soldier.”
The siblings also discussed their childhood influences and journeys toward becoming Soldiers in the U.S. Army.
“We grew up in the military,” Kelsey said. “Our mom was in the Army National Guard and both of our grandfathers were also in the military. Our grandfather Papa was actually at Ansbach, which was his [James’] first duty station. It’s kind of like following our family’s footsteps, being in the military.”
Kelsey reflected on her reason for joining the Army.
“I was actually just done with New Hampshire,” Kelsey said. “I had just gotten out of a pretty long relationship and was just torn between, do I want to stay in New Hampshire where there’s not a lot of good jobs or, do I want to travel? My original plan was to go active and I had everything setup, up until the day I went to MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station] to go active.”
Due to a family concern, Kelsey’s plans changed.
“I came home to see a letter from a court saying that my aunt wanted to terminate guardianship of my parents for our little sister, who we’ve had since she was 5-years-old and at that time she was nine. I’ve always been there for her regardless. I didn’t want to see this go sour. If she needed someone to talk to, I wanted to be there for her and that’s when I made the decision to go reserves.”
James also shared his reasons for joining the Army.
“The reason why I joined is, we [his family] had recently went down to her [Kelsey] basic training graduation at Fort Jackson, and the military has always been an idea for me,” James said. “I was always the kid that played soldiers and cops and robbers. I was always thinking I wanted to help people. So, when we went down to her basic graduation I saw how everyone did. It looked cool to me at the time. I was only 17. So, that kind of put me on the idea for a career path.”
Janice Harty, the mother of Kelsey and James, offered an insight of the relationship between the two Soldiers as they were growing up.
“Kelsey and James sometimes fought and sometimes they got along,” Janice said. “Their childhood was like every other child relationship. As they got older, they did normal teenage stuff such as sneaking out, having girls/boyfriends, proms, skipping school, football games, softball, baseball.”
Janice, although a veteran, had her own concerns of her children being in the military.
“My first concern was for their safety and where they were being deployed to,” Mrs. Harty said. “I have friends whose children have been there and I asked questions. I was glad when I found out that they were going to be together.”
Mrs. Harty also stated another reason why she was happy her children were deployed together.
“This is Kelsey’s second deployment and she has had some rough times in her life,” Janice said. “I was glad that James was going to be there for her if she needed him and the same the other way.”
In addition to their mother being happy that they’re deployed together, the siblings stated their reasons for appreciating being in the same deployed location.
“Having her here is a little more convenient,” James said. “Usually on my days off I’ll go see her. She’s shown me around the workplace and she’s introduced me to all of her command. We’ll have dinner at least once every other week.”
“We try to do something once a month to just try to keep our morale high,” Kelsey said. “He’s been there for me when I’ve had rough times. Having someone I can just vent to is helpful because there’s no judgment.”
As they reflected on their lives, they also gave their insights of what they hope for their futures.
“I’m a very get up and go kind of guy,” James said. “I really enjoy traveling. I would like to one day have a job outside of the Army where it forces me to travel. Until then, I’m looking at the special missions unit for aviation.”
“I just signed another six years back in November, so I at least have to finish that six years before I decide, if I want to make this a career,” Kelsey said. “When I originally enlisted, it was one of those goals to make it a career. I’m actually in college for criminal justice because I want to become a victim’s advocate, which is something that I hold near and dear to my heart.”