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NEWS | Oct. 5, 2020

Mother follows son enlisting in Navy

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A mother of two from Kerrville is following her son into the Navy, fulfilling her longtime dream of serving in the military.

Seaman Apprentice Bobbi Saenz has been in the Navy for eight months and is stationed at Naval Air Station North Island, near San Diego, California, where she is an aviation technician with the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 35.

Bobbi enlisted in the Navy at the age of 39, after her eldest son, 21-year-old Seaman Diego Saenz, joined the Navy in November 2018.

The mother-and-son Sailors were both recruited by Navy Recruiting District-San Antonio.

The elder Saenz shipped out to basic military training in February to Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, and turned 40 while in boot camp. She graduated basic military training in April and completed training school at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida in July.

Joining the military is something Bobbi said she had wanted to do for a long time but had put it off while raising her two sons, Diego Saenz and Raul Vasquez, who is now 18. When her sons were grown, she decided it was the right time to enlist and pursue her dream of a military career.

The new Seaman said her family supported her decision to go into the military, especially Diego, who encouraged her to do so.

“My older son (Diego) was saying, ‘You need to go after your dreams, you’re still young enough to do all this. What are you going to lose if you do it,’” Bobbi Saenz said. “It was just something I felt it would be an honor to do.”

Diego Saenz, stationed at Naval Station Everett in Washington state as an engineer on the USS Gridley, said his mother told him about her decision to join the Navy while visiting him in New York City, where he was on deployment last year.

“I was proud of her because she wanted to do something with her life, and she chose this route,” he said. “I know you can do a lot going this route; you get more opportunity and you’re serving your country.”

Following her son into military service, Bobbi was able to gain some insight from him on preparing for boot camp. Diego completed basic military training in January 2019.

Diego said he prepared his mother for what she would need to learn to get through basic military training, but the rest of the details of boot camp he left out for her to find out on her own.

“I didn’t want to make it too easy on my mother,” Diego said. “I wanted her to experience it herself, but I hoped I gave her the fundamentals she needed to know. I said it’s going to be eye-opening to see what’s going to happen; sometimes it’s going to feel weird. But I said I’m pretty sure you’ve been through worst situations than this, so it’s not going to be hard for you.”

Bobbi Saenz said she knew she would have to overcome a few challenges to make it through boot camp, such as being older than most of the trainees and adjusting to the way things are done in basic military training.

“You are set in your ways throughout life, as far as growing up, how you live, how you take care of a home,” she said. “You have your routine down, and after 39 years, you have to switch the entire routine. Everything changes, it was like rewiring myself.”

Serving in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, mother and son Sailors have experienced adversity.

First, Bobbi’s basic military training graduation ceremony was canceled in April because of the pandemic. Her two sons and her parents had planned to attend the graduation.

At about the same time his mother completed basic training, Diego tested positive for COVID-19. He had to quarantine for almost a month, but he recovered and is doing well now.

Even though they are at different duty stations, thousands of miles apart, the mother and son service members keep in touch with each other often, whether by texting or Face Time.

“We talk quite a bit,” Bobbi said. “We talk about what we are doing. During technical school, I asked him questions on things for getting qualifications - and just to catch up on each other.”

“We text every day and check up on each other and make sure we are doing all right,” Diego said.

Bobbi said having the chance to serve in the Navy fulfills one of her passions, helping people. Before joining the service, she worked two jobs in health care, as a pharmacy technician and part-time as a patient care technician in Kerrville.

“That’s who I am,” she said. “To me, I think my job is very important because I’m taking care of that person that is going to be flying that plane. It’s my job to make sure those pieces of equipment that are my job are functioning properly, so the pilots can do what they need to do.”

Diego said throughout his life, his mother worked several jobs so he and his younger brother would have the necessities and that she was always there for them. He said his mother also taught him some valuable lessons about life that he applies to his service in the Navy.

“She just always told us to never give up,” Diego said. “She always told us, ‘You are never going to get handed anything, you’ve got to work for it.’ We had that hard work mentality, and it stuck with us.”