Three generations of Missouri National Guard Soldiers from Rolla, Mo., attended a cake cutting in celebration of the 372nd birthday of the National Guard on Dec. 12 in the atrium of Lincoln Hall at the Maneuver Support Center Complex.


Three generations of Missouri National Guard Soldiers from Rolla, Mo., attended a cake cutting in celebration of the 372nd birthday of the National Guard on Dec. 12 in the atrium of Lincoln Hall at the Maneuver Support Center Complex.
Present were Sgt. Kathleen Kilby, her mother, Sgt. Norma-Gene Cottrell, and her son, Pvt. Allen Kilby.
Cottrell and Kathleen, along with her husband, Staff Sgt. Gregory  Kilby, an active-guard Soldier, all serve with Detachment 4, 735th Force Provider Company of Rolla, Mo., and have served combat rotations to Iraq.
Gregory is a former Marine who deployed to Iraq in 1991 as a part of Operation Desert Storm.
Allen leaves Jan. 9 for basic combat training at Fort Benning, Ga., as part of the Guard’s active-first program.
The group was there as a guest of Sgt. Maj. Thomas Sznura, senior Army National Guard enlisted advisor to the deputy chief of staff and the event’s coordinator.
Sznura opened the ceremony with an old Guard motto – ‘The Guard is Family.’
“As you can see, there is a wealth of history and background in the National Guard,” Sznura said.
Cottrell, the matriarch of the family, said she never expected her daughter or grandson to follow in her military footsteps, which began as an officer.
“I went on active duty right after Katie was born,” Cottrell said. “I spent four years on active duty and then four years in the Guard. Then I had a couple more children, so I had gotten out.”
When Kathleen was a senior in high school, Cottrell said, she began to consider joining the Guard.
“We fielded some phone calls and I told the recruiter, ‘It’s got to be in her heart, I can’t put it there for her,” said Cottrell, a fifth-grade teacher at Belle Elementary School. “Then she joined up.”
Kathleen said she always felt how proud her mother was to be in the Guard, but that didn’t have as much of an influence on her decision to join as did her own personal growth.
“I think it was more of a self-conscious thing because I definitely didn’t want to do it almost all the way through my first year of college,” Kathleen said. “But then I said, ‘No, I want to try it.’ I’ve loved it ever since.”
Kathleen’s decision reminded Cottrell of all she enjoyed about being in the Guard.
“I started thinking it might be time for me to get back in. I missed it,” she said. “When I had little kids it was hard to justify trying to do both jobs.
‘My little kids weren’t so little anymore, I missed it and I wanted to finish what I started a long time ago.”
Cottrell, however, didn’t rejoin quite yet as she continued to raise her children.
When Kathleen deployed, Cottrell, like any mother, worried.
“When she deployed, I thought, ‘My goodness. I’m old and she’s really young. I wish I could go in your place,’” Cottrell said. “I couldn’t do that.”
When Kathleen’s unit returned, Cottrell got a push from a co-worker.
“I had a friend in the high school where I was teaching at the time and he said, ‘You know, we still need Soldiers like you,’” Cottrell said.
“I said, ‘You don’t need someone as old and worn out as me.’ He said, ‘No, we need you.’ So I said, ‘OK.’”
Cottrell, whose youngest child is currently considering joining the Guard, said she couldn’t get back in as an officer, but was able to find a spot among the enlisted, where she’s served the last three years.
Kathleen said she’s pleased to be the glue for the family of Guard Soldiers.
“I love it,” she said. “I’m glad to be related to everybody and that we can all join the same force and have a great time together.”
Allen said he’s proud to carry on the Guard as a family tradition.
Although he grew up around the Guard, Allen said, much like his mother, the decision to join was one he made on his own.
“I grew up with it, but some people tend to push away from it,” he said.
What helped him make the conclusion to join the guard was the value of the job that he placed on it.
“I’ve done plenty of jobs. I’ve painted dorm rooms for colleges and all kinds of stuff,” Allen said. “I came out here to post one day and I saw those young privates getting yelled at by a drill sergeant.
“Then all of the sudden they all hollered ‘Hooah’ at the same time and he was done. It felt pretty big and I saw that was what I thought was right.”
That choice has made the family proud.
“It’s a real honor to have him join our ranks and know that he’ll be treated well,” Cottrell said. “People will take care of him and he’ll learn good skills.”
Kathleen admitted there is a little bit of fear there as well.
“Because I know what he’s getting into, but it’s mostly pride,” she said.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.