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Grandparents, parents and children reveal shared military life

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Military life often involves the entire family, whether living together on a base or sacrificing time with a loved one serving overseas. But for these three area families, defending America is truly a way of life that spans generations.

The Valenza family

Will and Julie Valenza of Queensbury, New York, have a special bond with their children, Mitchell, 27; Camila, 26; and Andrew, 25 years old. All five have served their country.

“Our situation is a little unique,” ​​Will told The Post.

In 2020, Will (Sergeant First Class), Julie (Major), and Andrew (Staff Sergeant) deployed together to the Middle East as members of the Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division.

Mitchell (Captain), a West Point graduate, recalled passing through Kuwait on his way home from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan and being able to spend five days with his mother and Andrew.

“It’s been investigated and they can’t find any other family that has been sent to a combat theater as a family,” Will said.

Julie Valenza (from left) and her sons Mitchell Valenza and Andew Valenza were sent to the Middle East at the same time.
Courtesy of the Valenza family.

In 1986, the Park Slope native joined the New York Army National Guard and served for six years before he and Julie moved upstate and Will became police chief in Glen Falls. In 2009 he rejoined the National Guard.

Despite having teenagers, Julie followed suit and was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, which greatly influenced her sons’ decision to join the service.

“My mom was deployed to Afghanistan the summer between my eighth and ninth grade. She now has two combat deployments under her belt, which is very impressive,” said Andrew, 25, who joined the Army National Guard at 17.

The entire Valenza family has served in the military. Julie (front), her husband Will (back), her daughter Camille (right), and her son Andrew (left) were all members of the Army National Guard.
Courtesy of the Valenza family.
Will (from left) and Julie Valenza with their son Andrew and his partner.
Courtesy of the Valenza family.

Camille, a captain in the Army National Guard, said the entire family’s vocation “keeps us closer because we do the same job.”

Both parents recently retired but are still proud of their children.

“In a few years, I’ll be the lowest ranked in the family,” Will said. “And I couldn’t be happier.”

The Bielauskas family

When Petty Officer Donna Bielauskas turned 18 in March 1972, her male friends and neighbors were being sent to fight in Vietnam, so Patterson, A native of New Jersey, he joined the Navy.

“Yeah [women] “We have to do this too,” the 69-year-old told The Post. “So I did.”

She was stationed at the Roosevelt Roads base in Puerto Rico in a personnel capacity.

“He was so damn independent. She wanted to do things my way,” she said. “I’m sure my parents were worried.”

Donna Bielauskas when she enlisted in the United States Navy in 1972.
Donna and Bill Bielauskas served during the Vietnam War. Her daughter Lisa Bielauskas (center) has been in the Navy for almost 18 years.

But they probably weren’t surprised.

His father started in the Coast Guard and became part of the Navy during World War II. His maternal grandfather fought in the First World War.

Donna married an Army veteran, the late Bill Bielauskas, and had four children. Her only daughter, Lisa Bielauskas, is now a Senior Chief Petty Officer and approaching her 18th year of service.

Donna Bielauskas’ father, Donald Gravenhorst, served in the Navy during World War II.
Courtesy of Donna Bielauskas

A nuclear machinist’s mate, Lisa has served on three aircraft carriers and is currently stationed at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in upstate New York.

“The military made me mature and made me realize that I am following a family tradition,” he said. “It would be great to have the next generation join in. “My brother has two kids, so we’ll see.”

The Boehm family

Throughout his childhood, Lt. Matt Boehm’s maternal grandfather, Pfc. Jim Doyle would host all of his grandchildren at his pool. But he was not allowed to swim until they sang the Marine Corps Anthem.

“The Marine Corps was a big part of our childhood,” Boehm told The Post. That pride was instilled by Doyle, a radio operator in Iowa Jima who was injured on his last night there.

PFC Jim Doyle, USMC, prior to his deployment to the Pacific. He was wounded on Iwo Jima as part of the 3rd Marine Division.
Courtesy of Matt Boehm
Former U.S. Navy submarine officer Matt Boehm holds a flag flown over the USS Arizona Memorial in honor of his grandfather, Jim Doyle, who served in the 3rd Marine Division during War II World. The right-wing flag flew over a forward operating outpost where his sister was stationed in Afghanistan.
Brian Zak/NY Post

“The island was safe and he would leave the next day. They threw a Japanese grenade into his trench, he picked it up and tried to throw it.”

Doyle lost some fingers when it exploded and was flown to Pearl Harbor to recover, and a flag that flew over the USS Arizona Memorial for Doyle remains one of Matt’s most prized possessions in his West Village apartment.

Matt’s father, J2LT Rodney Boehm, the son of an Army veteran, was an Army officer and later a reservist.

All of the Boem brothers have served in the Navy: Lt. Matt Boehm (from left), ENS John Boehm, USNR LT. Emily Tuggle and Lt. Jim Boehm.
Courtesy of Matt Boehm

Despite their history, Rodney said there was “no expectation” that his six children would serve in the military. But four did: Lt. Jim, 43, attended the Naval Academy. So did Matt, now 39, who became a nuclear engineer on submarines. ENS. John, 41, served as a Navy reservist. Lt. Emily Tuttle’s daughter, 37, worked as a Navy trauma nurse in Iraq.

“Your heart skips a beat when you see four of your sons in uniform,” Rodney said.

Matt, who was deployed three times, left the Navy in 2016. But he’s already instilling the spirit of service in his little girl, Josephine.

“Her middle name is Poppy because of Veterans Day,” Matt said of the symbolic flower. “It’s a very important day for us.”

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