Master Sgt. Eric Campbell had planned to retire from the Maine Air National Guard this year but decided to extend his service another into 2022 so he can deploy with his son, Senior Airman Noah Campbell, to southwest Asia.
Both men work full-time as firefighters at the Bangor International Airport and volunteer with the Hermon Fire Department, which serves the town where they live.
They will deploy in about two weeks with the 101st Air Refueling Wing.
On Wednesday, Hermon town officials presented the father and son team with a flag bearing two stars that will hang on the door of their home while they are deployed. An identical flag hangs in a window in the Hermon Public Safety Building on Billings Road and will remain there until they return.
“I was supposed to retire in June,” Eric Campbell, 45, said. “But I said that I would extend my commitment by a year if we could go together. It’s going to be a unique experience.”
There is one other caveat to their heading overseas together — they have to be back by May 7, when 21-year-old Mackenzie Campbell, Noah Campbell’s sister, graduates from the nursing program at Husson University.
Her father said they are due home in April and will be able to attend graduation.
It will be the fifth deployment for the elder firefighter and the first for his son.
“I don’t know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it,” Noah Campbell, 23, said.
In presenting the men with the blue star flag, Hermon Town Manager Howard Kroll, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, said that it is “rare” for service members who are related to serve in the same unit and be deployed together because family members don’t usually perform the same jobs in the same units.
“We couldn’t be any more proud of them,” Kroll said. “They will not only be representing the community but their firefighter family as well. We wish them the best of luck.”
Father and son could not say exactly where they would be stationed but Eric Campbell could say they would be at a military base in southwest Asia handling many of the same kinds of emergencies they handle at BIA — medical, structural and aircraft.
“This is going to give Noah an opportunity to work and train with other firefighters from all over the country,” Eric Campbell said. “While overseas, he’ll obtain more skills and knowledge that he can utilize back here at home.”
The blue star banner tradition was started in World War I by a father who had two sons fighting in the conflict called “the war to end all wars.”
The elder Campbell said that he plans to give the blue star flag bearing one star that hung on his door during his last deployment to Qatar in 2018 to his son, who wants to give it to his girlfriend to hang in one of her windows.