When the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division, nicknamed the Rainbow Division, deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield in January, three members of the Valenza family, Maj. Julie Valenza, her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Will Valenza, and their youngest son, Sgt. Andrew Valenza, were among its ranks.
According to Maj. Jean Marie Kratzer, the public affairs officer for the 42nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Support Company, a family with these many immediate family members deploying together is rare.
“They are all super close,” Kratzer said, noting the family often has at least one meal daily together.
Julie, also known as mom, deployed with the National Guard in 2012 to Afghanistan and knows first-hand how hard it is to be away from home and family. She also knows how fortunate she is to deploy with her husband and son.
“Deploying together is actually looking to be a great experience,” Julie said. “Even though we won’t be together every day, we will see each other more than other families who have someone deployed. We take whatever time together that we can get and know how fortunate we are to get it.”
Julie is a physician assistant in the division and works with the surgeon on clinical operations. Previously, she worked in a medical company providing care to soldiers during military exercises and deployments. In her civilian life, Julie has spent the majority of her career in a medical practice in Upstate New York.
“I joined the National Guard 10 years ago at age 45, one year after my husband reenlisted after a 16–year break in service,” Julie said. “I joined because there was a need in the National Guard for medical providers, and I felt it was my time to serve.”
Julie’s husband, Will, is a civil affairs noncommissioned officer serving in the 42nd Infantry Division. He initiated the family’s commitment to serve when he joined the New York Army National Guard in 1986. After six years, he transitioned to a civilian career in law enforcement, eventually joining and retiring as chief of police in Glens Falls, New York. In 2009, Will reenlisted in the New York Army National Guard at the age of 43.
“When I told my wife, she said to go for it,” Will said. “It took a little work, but I was able to reenlist and went right into the recruiting command as an instructor.”
Julie and Will’s youngest son, Andrew, followed in the footsteps of his older siblings and enlisted on his 17th birthday in 2015. He now serves as a combat documentation and production specialist in the 42nd Infantry Division.
“My job is to tell the Army’s story through photography and video productions,” Andrew said.
Motivated to voluntarily deploy with the division, Andrew expedited his college studies.
“I completed my degree early because I wanted to be able to come on this deployment without anything weighing down my ability to focus on the Army mission,” he said.
For the Valenzas, serving is a family affair. Their oldest son, 1st Lt. Mitchell Valenza, joined the New York National Guard at the age of 17 and completed basic training before his senior year of high school. He graduated from West Point. A platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne, Mitchell will return from his tour in Afghanistan later this spring. Julie and Will’s daughter, Camille, followed suit and also enlisted on her 17th birthday. A recently–commissioned 2nd Lt. in the New York Army National Guard serving as a field artillery officer, Camille is remaining in Upstate New York while her family deploys.
Julie and Will believe all of their children benefit from serving in the military.
“We hope they will continue to grow with a sense of selfless service and loyalty to their country and community,” Julie said of her children. “The Army has helped prepare them for life both morally and financially. We are proud that they understand that and appreciate it.”
As a medical provider, Julie will be deployed with the division for six months, while her husband and son will each deploy for an 11-month tour. She understands there is a strong possibility she will eventually separate from her family during this deployment because they are all charged with doing different jobs, which may scatter them to different locations. For now, she is relishing the time they do have together.
“Being in the military does provide a special bond for us,” Julie said. “We know how lucky we are to go through the experience of serving together as a family.”Read comments