Rey DeLeon, Jr., has three sons in the U.S. military, from left: Craig, 21; Rey III, 19, and Jamie, 23. His older sons, both in the Army, will soon go to Iraq, and his youngest son, a Marine, may go as well.
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Inside, Rey DeLeon, Jr., sits quietly at his kitchen table, looking down at photographs of his three sons in uniform.
Mr. DeLeon, 46, recently learned that his two older sons will be headed for duty in Iraq this month. And his third son, who's 19, desperately wants to follow his brothers there.
But the potential of having three sons in the war would be difficult for any parent - even a proud, patriotic father such as Mr. DeLeon, who once served in the military himself.
“I think the hardest part will be when we hear something bad happened, and we don't have contact with them,” Mr. DeLeon said this week. “That will worry us. But my years in the military gave me confidence in the training they have. And they're all three pretty tough kids.''
The DeLeon men - all athletes who graduated from Tinora High School in Defiance County - are unusual among U.S. families. They're all in the service and, ultimately, all headed for war.
Mr. DeLeon and their mother, Cecilia DeLeon of Maumee, have one other child, Rachael Brown, 25, who did not enlist in the military.
For Ms. DeLeon, the prospect of having all three sons in Iraq makes her proud.
“I'm scared, but if I could choose the men to serve our country, it would be them,” Ms. DeLeon said yesterday. “I'm very proud they're my sons. And they will come back alive. They're the best.”
The DeLeons did not always know that all three of their boys were destined for the military.
In fact, they'd agree that only the youngest son, Rey III, was pegged as a military man from the start. Now a Marine, he is in training in California, volunteering every chance he can to go to the Middle East.
“From the time he was a little kid, he said he wanted to be a Marine,” Mr. DeLeon said.
Now, Mr. DeLeon is even more convinced his son made the right choice: He is not only proud of what he does, but he has matured as a result of enlisting.
Older brothers Jamie, 23, a maintenance man in the 4th Infantry Division, and Craig, 21, a sergeant in the 1st Cavalry Division, took longer to decide on military service.
Both went to college for a while, later entering the service to support their schooling.
As youths, the DeLeon children had a military life. Mr. DeLeon joined the U.S. Army and was stationed for three years in Frankfurt, Germany, with his family.
As the oldest child, Ms. Brown of Perrysburg probably remembers those days the best.
Recently, she compiled collages of family photos from their time in Germany, sending one to each of her three brothers.
It was one of her ways of letting them know she will be thinking of them in the upcoming months while they're away.
“I try not to dwell on the bad side of [the war],” Ms. Brown said. “I just tell them how proud I am of them. But I worry about them like I would my own child.''
As for Jamie DeLeon and Craig DeLeon, they are keeping their spirits up as well. They live only a mile apart from each other at Fort Hood, Tex., so they talk or see each other daily.
They are not allowed to say when they're leaving, but they're prepared to go.
“I'm really ready to go over and do whatever's necessary,” Craig DeLeon said.
Jamie DeLeon, who will be leaving first, said he is half-nervous and half-excited about his upcoming endeavor. He said his one hope is that people will remember the troops, as he knows his family will.
“We want people to pray for our safe return,” Jamie DeLeon said. “Just don't forget us.”