By Senior Airman Krystal Wright
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
SOUTHWEST ASIA – A father and son reunited March 21 after more than a year apart under rather unique circumstances.
Airman 1st Class Alexander Rakas, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munition system specialist, has been deployed for the past six months to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
Normally, such circumstances restrict communication between loved ones to voice and video phone calls, messages and letters while juggling several hours of time differences. However, like ships passing in the night, they were able to briefly meet when Alexander’s father’s work brought him to the same location for an afternoon.
“It’s pretty surreal; I know a lot of people don’t get this chance,” said Alexander, who is stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. “The best part is that I get to show him where I have lived for the last six months as opposed to showing him through a camera.”
“We are super privileged to get the chance to see each other, even if it’s only for lunch,” said Gino Rakas, Alexander’s father.
Meeting father Gino
Gino Rakas has worked for Army and Air Force Exchange Service for the more than 31 years. Currently, he is the services business program specialist for Europe, Southwest Asia and Africa.
“I am responsible for overlooking all the contractors … like the barber shops, car rental, jewelry (store), spas and commodities of all sorts,” Gino said. “I absolutely love my job. I get the chance to travel and see the world, and I get the chance to see firsthand our most important mission in Southwest Asia. We go to combat areas and deployment areas like this and support our troops (by) providing a taste of home.”
The Exchange also maintains services and support to family members and troops back home along with supporting morale, welfare and recreation programs.
The Exchange’s motto is “we go where you go,” which is why Gino went on the TDY; he’s conducting site visits of Exchange facilities to ensure compliance with contracting standards, terms and conditions, which just so happened to include the one supporting his son.
‘Carrying on the legacy’
Alexander’s childhood was similar to a military brat; as his family was stationed many places to include Verona, Italy; Lakenheath, England; Ramstein, Germany; and Dallas, Texas. He also watched Gino deploy to Qatar twice.
“This is the epitome of family serving family; me serving my son through the services we provide here.”
– Gino Rakas, the Exchange, Europe/SW Asia Region
At these assignments, he went to school with military brats, which Alexander said inspired him to join the military himself. His other inspiration was his grandfather who had served in the Army for 28 years as a warrant officer and had also inspired Gino in his own career choice.
“This is the epitome of family serving family; me serving my son through the services we provide here,” said Gino, who is stationed at the Exchange Europe/SW Asia headquarters in Sembach, Germany. “I am proud of what I do and proud of my son … He is carrying on the legacy of his grandpa and I think that is pretty cool.”
In turn, Alexander said he was grateful and impressed that his father is able to bring a piece of home to those deployed in a desert.