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NEWS | June 14, 2023

Father and son reunite on military overseas mission

By Capt. Jessica Modique U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa

Serving in the military often requires separation of service members from their families. It’s a rare, special occasion when family members can unite with their service members while in action overseas.

Sgt. Ethan Judkins is a Forward Signal Support in the 65th Field Artillery Brigade of the Utah National Guard. Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Larnach is currently an Active Guard Reserve Soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, serving as a Truck Master at the 129th Heavy Het Company based in New Century, Kansas.

For both Larnach and Judkins, this is their first time participating in African Lion. As such, there is a lot of anticipation — not to mention the fact that Judkins is Larnach’s 25-year-old stepson, and they haven’t seen each other for over a year.

“He’s grown into an amazing young man, and the Army has had a huge piece in that,” Larnach said, “but at the same time as a dad, I couldn't be more proud of him.”

Larnach’s influence and experience in the U.S. Army inspired Judkins to begin his military career by enlisting in the Kentucky National Guard in 2016.

Judkins explained the feeling of “childlike excitement” and a sense of motivation when realizing that both he and his father would unexpectedly be reconnected in Morocco. They had been separated for over a year because of their respective military obligations to the Army Reserve and National Guard.

Larnach, his son, and approximately 8,000 personnel and 18 nations will participate in African Lion 2023, U.S. Africa Command's largest annual, combined, joint exercise that will take place in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia from May 13 to June 18, 2023. Both Larnach and Judkins’s components are part of this joint effort.

“Yesterday he was nine; now he’s over here in Morocco with me,” Larnach said.