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NEWS | Oct. 8, 2020

Promotion in a pandemic

By Lt. Col. Jennifer Mack 318th Theater Public Affairs Support Element

Army Reserve Maj. Eugene Nash and his family have overcome many challenges during the global pandemic. Their latest problem was how to allow his parents to safely participate in his promotion since his father is battling serious health issues.

The solution was a virtual event from the comfort of the family’s home. On Oct. 3, in a Zoom ceremony led by Lt. Col. Jennifer K. Mack, commander of the 318th Theater Public Affairs Support Element, Nash’s parents, Joette and Robert Nash pinned his rank, officially promoting him to major.

“With COVID and my father's current health, a virtual ceremony just made the most sense,” said Nash.

In June, Nash’s father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. He underwent surgery and was hospitalized for a month following the procedure. Robert was subsequently transferred to other facilities where he endured another two months of rehabilitation, still unable to return home to his family.

While Robert was in the hospital, only one person could visit him a day. The family would rotate days and nights between Nash, his mother, and siblings. At the rehabilitation centers, Nash was able to do window visits with his father. The facility wheeled his father down to a window and Nash would sit outside and talk to him through a phone that the facility set up.

Nash said it was important for his parents to be a part of his promotion because they had been with him from the beginning in 2006 when he first joined the Army, and they dropped him off at the airport to leave for basic training. He thought his father’s recent release from rehab was an ideal time.

“The most important thing to me is my family. No matter how or where I conducted my promotion ceremony, I wanted my parents, wife, and daughter to be a part of it,” said Nash.

As the adjutant read the promotion orders from the other side of the Zoom call, Nash’s mother replaced the captain’s bars on his cover. Then Nash turned to his father who is in a wheelchair. His father reached up and removed the chest rank, replacing it with a gold oak leaf cluster. Following the ceremony, Nash’s father said it did not matter to him that the ceremony was virtual because what was important was that he was able to promote his son.

Nash’s father additionally shared that his son, “had two grandfathers who served in WWII as NCOs that would be very proud.”

Nash’s mother, who has participated in other promotions for her son said with everything going on, the virtual event was the easiest way. She was happy with everyone’s cooperation in accommodating her husband’s health concerns.

“We’d be proud of him [Nash] no matter how it was done,” said J. Nash.

Also present at the family home for the ceremony was Nash’s wife, LeeAnn and daughter, Laurel. With the ceremony being virtual, other family members who have never had the pleasure of attending Nash’s prior promotions were able to witness the event. Nash’s uncle, Joe Dennison, logged into the Zoom call. His aunt, Carole Schmittauer, and his grandmother, Juanita Dennison tuned in through the family’s Alexa device.

Dennison said that she was grateful to the Army for making her grandson’s promotion family oriented and allowing her and other family members to be included. She described how Nash checks on her weekly and gives her an opportunity to visit with her great grandchild, Laurel. Dennison said that Nash “has always been very patient and has a lot of compassion, which makes him a good officer and teacher.”

At the closing of the ceremony, Nash talked about how the pandemic had changed his habits.

“Normally, my [Army Reserve] job helps me in my teacher job, but during the pandemic the teacher job has helped in the [Army Reserve] job,” said Nash.

Nash was referring to the unit’s requirement for several months to do hybrid battle assemblies since the pandemic prevented Soldiers from meeting in person, and Nash had to build various training plans. In closing, he thanked his family for their continued support of his Army career.